In my life ... an ode to Christmas
THE EDITOR, Madam:
Wherever they live around the world, people who celebrate Christmas usually have a favourite part of the season. It could be religious rituals and gatherings, or food and drinks, or exchanging gifts, or decorating trees and homes, or movies and music, or personal family traditions, and more. Looking at the musical side of Christmas, many carols reporting a birth in Bethlehem have words and music written in the 17th and 18th centuries, some linked to Latin versions much further back in history.
Non-religious seasonal songs became very popular since Thomas Edison invented the phonograph about 150 years ago, with multitudes of singers with songs about everything from sleigh-rides, dancing snowmen, red-nosed reindeer to falling in love, and everything in between. Christmas became totally commercialised in the last century, and now television ads are more lavish every year, with the tremendous power of advertising. Remember that the Santa Claus depicted everywhere as the jolly overweight guy in the red suit first appeared that way in a Coca-Cola magazine advert almost 100 year ago. Before then his depiction was totally different.
This year, my favourite advertisement is from Amazon, where three elderly ladies sit at the bottom of a snow hill watching youngsters enjoy themselves sledging down towards them. One lady makes an order from Amazon, which delivers cushions for plastic sledges that enable the three friends to enjoy a joyful trip down the snowy hill and reminisce en route. Not a single word spoken in the one-minute advertisement that ends with the words “Joy Is Shared”, and the Amazon logo, of course. These touching scenes of lifelong friendships have musical accompaniment from John Lennon’s In My Life. The song was released on The Beatles Rubber Soul album just before Christmas 1965, which coincided with me spending the holidays with my family in England for the first time in several years since joining the Merchant Navy. John Lennon was a supreme wordsmith writing about his friends and lovers who he would never forget, but in this advert, there is only a piano slowly playing the opening melody of his song. That’s more than enough to refresh so many nostalgic memories for me, and it’s no surprise that when George Martin, The Beatles musical arranger and producer, was asked which of all their songs was his favourite he replied: “ In My Life”.