Soul Serenade: Otis Redding, “Merry Christmas, Baby”

Written by Ken Shane's Soul Serenade, Music

Celebrating the joys of the season with Otis Redding

Merry Christmas, Baby

You may be relieved to know that I’m not going to drone on in my usual style this week. My main objective is simply to celebrate the spirit of the season, and give you some good music to listen to as you enjoy the warmth of home and hearth.

“Merry Christmas, Baby” is what you might call a soul chestnut. The song was written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore. It was Moore’s Three Blazers, a group that featured Charles Brown on piano and vocals, that first recorded it in 1947. In addition to Moore and Brown, the other Blazers were guitarist Oscar Moore (Johnny’s brother), and bass player Eddie Williams. Their record rolled all the way up to #3 on the Billboard R&B Jukebox chart at Christmas time that year.

Otis ReddingOtis Redding’s recorded his version 20 years later, but the song has been covered numerous times including takes by Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Etta James, and Bruce Springsteen. Even Charles Brown got into the act again, recording the song as a duet with Bonnie Raitt for the 1992 album A Very Special Christmas 2.

Redding’s version has always been a favorite of mine. It was released by Atco Records as the B-side of his “White Christmas” single in 1968. Sadly, Redding had died in a plane crash in Wisconsin a year earlier, along with most of his band, the Bar-Kays. Although the single failed to chart, Redding’s version of “Merry Christmas, Baby” remains a staple of any soulful Christmas.

In closing, I would like to wish you all the peace and joy of the holiday season. It’s a time for family and friends, a time to count our blessings, and a time to remember those who aren’t as fortunate. To everything, there is a season.