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Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Tribute to Johnny Mathis

December 13, 2009: Despite the exquisite joy that Christmas music brings me, I still get very uncomfortable whenever a black person sings "White Christmas." They'll sing, "May all your Christmases be white," and the disturbing racist implications for someone like me -- someone who is, if not necessarily overly sensitive out of kindness, certainly suffering under the shame-based yoke of dysfunctional hyper-awareness -- can be alarming.

But I didn't want to take that tangent today. Instead, I hoped to devote a gentle column of celebration to the remarkable Christmas work of Johnny Mathis, who is neither black nor white, but a kind of seasonal caramel cafe' au lait -- a toasted chestnut, best tasted at the holidays.

Our family prides four of Johnny Mathis's Christmas albums, and each is better than the last. For me, Johnny's vaguely nasal heartfelt melodic enthusiasm perfectly captures all that I love about this glorious season. (And let's be clear -- it has evolved into a season -- a positive celebratory season of good vibrations and comradeship, assuming one chooses to look at it that way. The lingering religiosity is, to me, a quaint, vaguely amusing archaic vestige of mankind's nervous past, but the spirit that it's based in is an ideal one, one which I welcome and celebrate.)

(How odd it was to even see in the story "A Christmas Carol" a subtle challenge to that religiosity, when Scrooge frankly (and not unkindly) questions the Ghost of Christmas Present as to why his "kind" insists on quelling the Christmas-like joy of community by making shops and restaurants and everything close every seventh day. No one ever leaves those lines in in any of the movie versions, but they're certainly striking ones!)

But we were talking about Johnny Mathis, and I did want to point out how silly he sounds pronouncing "Baby Yay-soo" in The Little Drummer Boy song, and isn't that wording itself just ridiculous! Yay-soo indeed! But better still, how much more flamingly flambuoyant could Johnny get than in Sleigh Ride, when he notes that friends are calling "Yoo Hoo!" Gads, you've got to love his unfettered fagginess! ("Gone away is a new bird. Here to stay is a (gay) bird.") The freedom that comes with his heartfelt spirited songs of voices, openly proclaiming words of love and joy and fun. It just makes me want to get up and prance, and not care who sees me. (Woe that more of us don't invest time prancing, especially at the holidays ... But I'll analyze the fatuous ninniness of homophobia another time ...)

So that's my Johnny Mathis -- the great gay (and I mean here in the happy sense) glorious voice of the holidays. What better light to shine upon our blessed heads this joyful season, and what better man than this to pronounce in Voices the Word of wonder and hope and peace that is our lovely Christmas time!

Next Week: A detailed essay on why I hate Ashton Kutcher so much.

10 comments:

  1. Tanya loves Johnny Mathis, but Twanya hates his lilly white face and wants to beat him up in the stairwell behind the cafeteria.

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  2. I hate the Little Drummer Boy - what a terrible thing to offer a newborn: a drum solo. Bastard.

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  3. Oh Wow, everytime I think I've heard the most ridiculous comment any human could come out with another one comes up. I'm Dreaming Of A WHITE Christmas is talking about a white Christmas of snow. How could the mind of anyone find a way to make something racist out of that?? Wonders never cease and Johnny Mathis' skin looks just fine, he never took anything like Michael Jackson did to make his skin lighter, what you see with Johnny is what you get and he is a good looking and handsome man.

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  4. Mutt, if you only had a drum which is all that poor little boy had to play on then you play a solo drum song to the little baby. I'm sure the little Christ child thought it was fine, why are you casting a bad eye on it? You people make me ill, I'm not going to monitor any more comments here. We live in a world that loves to knock things down and criticize instead of complimenting and seeing good in thigs.

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  5. Dear Connie: I think of Mary and Joseph, wandering from point to point, great with child. Who will put this Holy Family up? All tell them: No room! No room? For this family, there is no room?

    A humble Inn Keeper gives them a stable to lay their tired bodies down. Mary's water breaks and Joseph pulls the Baby Jesus from between her tired and quivering thighs. There is an afterbirth, which is tossed to the animals to eat. The first sacrament! The First Supper!

    The baby squeals and cries and Joseph's rough hands caress Him and soothe Him and finally, Baby Jesus sleeps . . . while shepherds come in and adore him - but quietly!

    And then some smart ass with a drum comes in and says, "CAn I play for him?" Joseph as first thinks it's a joke - but that punk starts beating on the skins, of all the damned things to do. Baby Jesus stirs and cries out. Joseph gets upp off his knees and clouts the drummer boy a good one across his ugly face. The shepherds try to restrain Joseph, but he's got these big, brawny carpenter arms and he shrugs free and whips that boy's ass but good.

    Somewhere in the desert, Johnny Mathis is crooning to the stars while Michael Jackson lovingly sodomizes the Drummer Boy.

    Amen

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  6. Mutt, you're sick and so are your comments. Have fun, I want no part of it.

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  7. According to my esteemed doctor, I am no longer sick if the silverware in my kitchen no longer speaks to me in a Peter Lorre like voice, advising me which spices to use. Do you think you know more than my doctor? The silverware has been mute lo these many months and I know now that it was all foolishness and it was really the saucepan talking and throwing its voice so that it SEEMED as if they silverware was talking. Which is absurd! Silverware can't talk! Or at least, not in English.

    Connie I respect you deeply - and your opinions. One thing that troubles me is that donkey you keep in your closet with your vast and coordinated shoe collection. Just what the hell is the idea behind that? Doesn't livestock require extensive grazing land?

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