As we trudge towards the end of the 2016 and the beginning of America’s final year in existence, there is one final celebration/time suck standing in our way: Christmas.
With Christmas comes Christmas music and as far as I’m concerned, there is but one seminal Christmas song: Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas.”
Recorded in 1970, the song enjoyed a resurgence in popularity when it was included on the revised edition of Atco’s Soul Christmas. I can’t recall the first time I heard “This Christmas” just like I can’t remember when I first became aware of my fingers. The buttery voice of Donny singing “shake a hand, shake a hand now” is as ingrained in my memories of Christmas as (I assume) roasting chestnuts are for my melanin-deficient friends.
What exactly makes “This Christmas” so great? For starters, it’s one of the few Christmas songs with an appealing and interesting rhythm—likely because it’s one of the few Christmas standards written by a black person rather than someone who looks like this. The result is “This Christmas” is also one of the few Christmas songs you can actually dance to without looking super stupid. There’s also the fact that Donny Hathaway’s voice is perfect and who doesn’t live to imitate the melody of chorus—da da da da-da da-da da.
Perhaps you’re wondering what this is all leading up to. Or maybe you’ve already read the headline. So, let me now ask: Do white people listen to this song?
I troll you not. I’m wondering because I am not white and my family is not white, so I’m not privy to what white people play in their households during Christmas. I have my guesses, of course, but I’d like to confirm.
Further “This Christmas” is basically the standard black Christmas song. It is our “Jingle Bells.” Before this moment, I never stopped to wonder if it was also being played in households without a black angel on top of the tree.
Now, let me be clear, I’m not asking if you’ve ever heard the song before. Unfortunately, I discovered a whole trove of “This Christmas” covers that range from the annoyingly good (Chris Brown, because he barely changes the original) to the downright criminal—a cover by Train that, frankly, they should spend the rest of their days atoning for. I’m asking if you have ever heard or regularly listened to the Donny Hathaway version—AKA the original and the best.
Help me out. Let me know. Clarify this for me. Do white people listen to the Donny Hathaway version of “This Christmas?” Because they should.