Protest Song of the Day: ‘Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)’ by Bob Dorough & Miles Davis
To recognize the power of protest music, acknowledge its role in creating a culture of dissent and how musicians translate social issues and systemic problems into song, The Dissenter launched a daily feature to highlight a protest song every weekday. As the holiday approaches, the blog has been highlighting Christmas-themed protest songs.
Bob Dorough is a cool bepop, jazz pianist and singer, who collaborated with jazz legend Miles Davis to produce, “Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern).” He is known for working with Allen Ginsberg and he also once performed in between Lenny Bruce sets.
The song may not be as much of a protest song as previous selections featured this week, however, its lyrics have an anti-commercialism theme.
Dorough sings about “all the waste, all the sham, all the haste and plain old bad taste” of Christmas. The “sidewalk Santy Clauses” are too fake—”much, much too thin.” And they wear “fancy rented costumes, false beards and big fat phony grins.” The poor are out on the streets and, meanwhile, everyone is like “Gimme gimme gimme gimme” and “fill my stocking up.”
This is the time of year “when the greedy give a dime to the needy,” but Dorough doesn’t find that to be all that genuine at all. People trade gifts that don’t matter. As far as Dorough is concerned, he doesn’t care for that “fal-de-ral.” There are lots of “hungry, homeless children” and he just does not get the point of spending time addressing “twenty zillion Christmas cards.”
The final lyric that he sings, “I hope yours is a bright one, but for me it bleeds,” is steeped in cynicism. It depends on interpretation. This could be regarded as a standard expression of, “Bah humbug!” but it seems to be much more complex. Dorough enjoyed Christmas once upon a time, but now he feels engulfed by an ocean of phony Christmas spirit.
If you have requests for songs that should be featured or if you have a protest song you recorded, which you would like to see featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org. And all previous Protest Song of the Day selections can be found here.