Good news! I’ve overcome my profound Electoral Affective Disorder to assemble yet another mood-elevating, hall-decking, merry-making Christmas mixtape. This one—my eleventh, for all you completists—kicks off with Charley Pride, one of only three African-American artists in history to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, and it only gets funkier and more festive from there.
And when I say festive, what I really mean is… well, you’ll hear. This is probably the blackest, saddest, most 1970s-sensitive entry in the Yule-Tunes Eclectic & Inexplicable saga—a series not historically wanting for blackness or sadness or 1970s sensitivity.
That’s entirely down to my mood as 2016 reaches its end. Twenty-sixteen has been the most frightening year I’ve lived through as an adult, and I’m afraid it’s merely a prologue to darker, more violent, more heart-rending days to come. But as one George Strait is heard to declare late in Side A, “For Christ’s Sake It’s Christmas.” Let’s try to enjoy ourselves even as we resolve to resist the coming assault on civil liberties, the environment, and the democratic norms that made our country great.
The Christmas music to which I return again and again, like so much else that I love, has its origins in the 1960s and 1970s: Periods of great social change in the United States. It was painful (says the guy who has benefitted from the art that era produced without having to suffer through those years as a self-aware person) but ultimately positive. As we navigate this uncertain new era of rising authoritarianism and declining faith in our institutions, let us ask our forebears to lend us their courage.
And their tunes.