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Sunday, December 07, 2014

Kenny & Dolly: A Christmas To Remember

Well, hello there everybody!  This is the continuation of A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR.

We've made it a whole week already!  Day #7 has arrived!

Now, usually what happens during a Sunday Jukebox entry is that I choose a song from random, talk a little bit about the song, how well it did on the charts, and any funny stories or interesting trivia facts about how the songs were recorded.

But on account that this is the holiday season, I am going to toss all of that out of the window.  You see, I am not going to be posting pop songs that made it to the top of the charts.  I'll be posting contemporary Christmas classics and holiday favourites of yore.

And, fair warning to all of you who might be reading this post...this blog entry is going country for today.  Now, for fans of country music, this blog entry will surely make your day.  And for those of you who are not - well, at least there's next Sunday, right?

Oh, yeah.  One other thing.  I'm not going to be limiting my song choice to just one song.  In fact, I may end up posting no less than four songs in this very space!  You will understand why as you read on.

Anyway, the inspiration behind this post admittedly comes from a rather unusual source.

As many of you know, I work in the media/electronics section of a department store.  And, as many of you know, Christmas is only eighteen days away.  So, naturally, with electronics and media being in huge demand for the holidays, it is a fair assessment to say that I am putting in a lot of hours on the sales floor.  I once kept a pedometer on me during a standard eight hour shift, and it claimed that I took over 21,000 steps! 

Side note:  Nobody can EVER tell me that I slack off at work!

Anyway, the point is that while you are stocking boxes of merchandise on the shelves, you overhear the strangest conversations from customers who happen to be shopping.

One conversation happened just yesterday.  I was trying to put away recovery from the night before and I happened to be in the section where we sell our CD's and concert DVD's and I overheard two men having a discussion near the country music section.  And clear as a bell, I heard one man exclaim that he believed that Kenny Rogers has had so much cosmetic surgery that he looked like Michael Jackson!

Okay, so maybe comparing the two singers might be a bit of a stretch, but it isn't really any secret that Kenny has had work done.  He openly admitted to Anderson Cooper that he underwent plastic surgery in an effort to look younger.  And comparing two Kenny Rogers albums side by side, it is hard not to notice a difference.  Here's Kenny from his latest release, 2013's "You Can't Make Old Friends".

And, here's Kenny from thirty years ago from a Christmas album that he released.

Hey, wait a minute.  Isn't that Dolly Parton posing beside Kenny Rogers?  Sure looks like it.  And, I suppose one common thread between these two country music superstars is that they have both openly admitted to undergoing plastic surgery.

But there's another major connection between these two that happens to be a lot more meaningful.  They record beautiful music.

In fact, the album cover that I just posted up above happens to be the subject of this blog post.  We'll be looking at the album "Once Upon a Christmas", which believe it or not was released thirty years ago, in 1984.

So, Kenny Rogers had already released a holiday album back in 1981, but this was really the first time that Dolly Parton ever released a Christmas album.  And who knew that when the two got together and recorded "Once Upon a Christmas" that it would become of the biggest selling holiday albums of the year.  Of course, it didn't quite make the top of the list for the Top Holiday Albums - it was released the same year that Band-Aid recorded "Do They Know It's Christmas".  However, on the Billboard Christmas Charts, it peaked at #4.  Not only that, but it was a Top 20 album on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, and peaked at #31 on the Billboard 200!

So, how did this album grow so popular?  Well, I suppose you could thank CBS in part for that.

It had been in the works for a while, but CBS decided to air a Christmas special that featured Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton singing a mixture of original Christmas songs with classic Christmas favourites.  The special originally aired on December 2, 1984 and has since be re-run on selected cable outlets. 

(Interestingly enough, the special has never been released on Blu-Ray, DVD, or even VHS, making it quite difficult, but not impossible to find.)

The name of the special was Kenny & Dolly:  A Christmas To Remember, and here are just a few of the songs that you could hear in said special.

How about a rousing rendition of "With Bells On"?

Maybe you'd rather hear Dolly singing "Winter Wonderland"?

Or, how about the biggest hit from the special and the album?  A little song called "The Greatest Gift Of All", which peaked at #81 on the Billboard Hot 100?

Even thirty years after this album was released, it is still widely popular.  Country music stations often play this record during the holiday season.  In 1989, it was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.  And in 1997, the album was re-released, but with two tracks deleted, and one track added.  The original 1984 release is unfortunately out of print.

Still, though...if you're looking for an album that will complement your good old-fashioned Christmas, give this one a try.  I don't mind it, and I don't really care for most country music.  If I like it, I think you will too.

And that closes the chapter on the first week of the advent calendar.  But do stick around for Day #8.  I'll be talking about something funny for the holidays.  What that is, I don't know.  But I will think of something.

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