Do you constantly find yourself humming the tune of "The Little Drummer Boy" during the holiday season as if it were a new and infectious single by the Black Eyed Peas? For some reason, the holiday season makes me long for something a little more festive playing through my mp3 player’s headphones as I walk to the Kingsbridge Branch on a blustery New York winter morning.
In 1980, The Temptations, one of the most influential music groups recorded the quintessential Christmas soul album, Give Love at Christmas. This Temptations roster consisting of Glenn Leonard, Richard Street, Melvin Franklin, Dennis Edwards, and Otis Williams, crafted the perfect Christmas album during what many would consider a rough period in their long and storied career. Give Love at Christmas was not The Temptation’s first crack at a holiday themed album, but it surely was their most memorable.
Filled with the heavy Motown sound, The Temptations shine vocally in a way that none of their contemporaries could (with the exception of The O'Jays). They layed down very same smooth harmonies that created hit after hit during their long reign at the top of the charts. Covered on the album are songs such as "The Christmas Song," a song notably recorded by Nat King Cole and "This Christmas" a song co-written, performed, and made popular Donny Hathaway.
The Temptations manage to hold their own with the songs I previously alluded to, yet the stand out track of the album is their moving six minute long rendition of “Silent Night.” Having recorded the very same song ten years earlier on their Christmas Card album, this version is the one in which most fans refer to they mention "Silent Night" by The Temptations. Channeling the sounds of a small gospel choir on Christmas Day, The Temptations dug deep within and conjured up the very spirit of Christmas.
So as you prepare to brave the cold and find yourself needing an internal soundtrack for the holidays, remember The Temptations. As you try to squeeze your way on to a crowded subway car during rush hour and your whipped cream topped hot chocolate is about to spill on the person holding on tightly to the pole next to you, remember Give Love at Christmas. Simply take a New York minute, find track number eight, and hope for once you get a silent night in the city that never sleeps. Happy Holidays!
NYPL Catalog Links:
Sky's The Limit
Give Love at Christmas
Temptations by Otis Williams with Patricia Romanowski
Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The Troubled Lives and Enduring Soul of the Temptations by Mark Ribowsky
Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power by Gerald Posner