I once again set aside the customary “Talking Animals” format to deliver the Annual Holiday Animal Song special—that is, a show almost entirely devoted to Holiday-oriented animal tunes. As has been required in the past, and as I acknowledged while over-explaining this program’s premise (over-explaining the premise has become its own tradition—one of this show’s many), the only way to effectively pull off this conceit is to cobble together the special with a liberal sprinkling of “Rudolph”-related songs. Which meant including various versions of “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” including The Fab Four’s rocking, melodic take. And it’s essential to include at least one version of “Run Rudolph Run,” this one a new barn-barner by Cher, who earned inclusion here because (a) she’s Cher; (b) a couple of days earlier, she had told the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to go f**k themselves. While acknowledging, musically and otherwise, that the attention accorded to Rudolph is understandable and well-earned. But we also reiterated that not all reindeer—in Holiday songs, and otherwise–are named Rudolph–making the point by placing Otis Gibbs’ “Lloyd The Reindeer” back-to-back with Joe Diffie’s “Leroy The Redneck Reindeer,” following a new Joe Pardi song, simply entitled “Reindeer.” These numbers took their place alongside a longtime staple on this show, the quirky, if delightfully verbose “Dominick, The Italian Christmas Donkey” by the also delightfully-verbose Vinnie Bonofici And His Italian American Band—in recent years, this song is often requested, just as we’re playing it, or about to. To round out our playlist, a program of this nature is practically constitutionally obligated to spin “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas”—in this case, the more recent version by Kacey Musgraves. We also worked in something by my beloved EELS, the propulsive fave, “Christmas Is Going To The Dogs.” We also played Shonen Knife’s “Sweet Christmas,” in large part because the song asks Santa to please bring a space ship while riding a “bison sleigh.” As WMNF Music Director Flee points out, “If you think about it, honestly, bison are just as unlikely as flying reindeer. I took a brief break from playing cool yule songs for the traditional reading of what I call the Dorothy Strauss Christmas message, as dictated by tradition, or at least the tradition of the Talking Animals Annual Holiday Animal Song special. That message, whose author had always been unknown to me and my family while I was growing up–my Mom hung a poster of it each Christmas season, as part of our home’s holiday decorations–-was written by Howard W. Hunter, whom we now credit on the show for fashioning those poignant, powerful words.
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