Friday, December 23, 2022

There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays—The Murfin Winter Holidays Music Festival 2022-‘23

                                                  (There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays--The Carpenters.

We’ll celebrate what may or may not be the busiest travel day of the holiday season given the storms and record breaking cold lashing much of the U.S. this year with a classic American popular Christmas song by Robert Allen with lyrics by Al Stillman written in 1954. Perry Como had a huge hit with (There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays which has become an oft recorded classic.  But no one sang it better than Karen Carpenter.

An Old Fashion Christmas including Home for the Holidays was released after Karen Carpenter's death.

This song is best classified under the secular urban advent popular holiday music.  Although it sprawls far and wide from city sidewalks it shares the same contemporary feel of post-World War II America with a swinging, spritely style.  It evokes nostalgia without ever getting much more specific than a passing reference to “homemade pumpkin pie” with just repeated references to home.  And even home is not well defined—no reference to mom and dad, the old folks, a farm or village or city neighborhood.  Home is whatever place you feel connected to in some deep way and whatever family of blood or choice offers welcome.

The “Holidays” were not very specific either.  No mention of Christmas, Chanukah, or New Years.  Maybe Thanksgiving qualified.  Which is why the propagators of War on Christmas nonsense should hate this song if they give it a second thought.

Driving home for the holidays circa 1952.

A generation or two earlier most Americans grew up and stayed in the place of their birth or its immediate environs which usually was well stocked with a wide circle of extended family.  But two World Wars, the Great Depression, post-war prosperity, and transportation revolutions had changed that for a great many folks.  The new normal was going away to college or entering the military after high school graduation and then finding a job someplace else and establishing a new nuclear family.  People were expected to go where opportunity beckoned and the corporate culture of the time often required frequent relocations.  Even if you stayed in the same state or general vicinity of “home” chances are that you lived in one of the new sprawling suburbs.

After the war and with the new prosperity, the automobile and modern highways had supplanted the railroads as the main means of getting wherever you were going.  So Home for the Holidays is a song about driving.  If it had been written a decade later with jet air travel at a cost that many could afford, the song might have mentioned busy airports and the places cited might have been too far apart for a day or so road trip.  It was very much a song of its time.

It still works for us, at least for geezers like me, because it makes us nostalgic for that time.  But also, because many of us still have a home we go to for the Holidays—or are the home to which our progeny and descendants come. 

Home for the Holidays was re-recorded in stereo in 1959 for Como's RCA album.

Como released the song on RCA Victor accompanied by Mitchell Ayres Orchestra and the Ray Charles Singers.  He showcased it on a Christmas TV special helping to establish that as a long running holiday tradition.  Each edition of the Como Christmas show was sure to feature his biggest holiday hit.  The song registered a No. 8 on the Cash Box magazine top 50 and made the charts again the next year when it was re-released.  In 1959 Como with the same back-up recorded a new stereo version with a slightly different arrangement by Joe Lipman.  It was successfully released as a single by RCA Victor and included on the top selling album Seasons Greetings from Perry Como as well as on numerous compilation albums.  This is the version commonly heard on Christmas radio and is licensed to TV commercials.

It is also the version that The Carpenters adapted for their 1974 album Christmas Portrait and included on their 1984 LP An Old Fashioned Christmas which was released after Karen’s death.  


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