What I’m about to do will possibly be THE most controversial and contentious list ever created. I want you to know that up front. Even as I was making this list, I started a fight with myself that didn’t end well, and I think Brick killed a guy. So let’s just get the most important statement of the entire piece out of the way up front:
Fight me, bro.
We good? Good.
While finding a great hip-hop Christmas song can feel like a useless endeavor outside of a select few, the soul world is chock-full of great Christmas songs. My parents got us started early with soulful Christmas music, and it became an integral part of my youth and Christmas experience. Christmas doesn’t start until Donny starts blaring through department store speakers. Christmas music is love.
For that reason alone, damn near every great soul artist from the ’60s and ’70s made at least ONE Christmas song. And here’s the rub: They’re all pretty good. Of course, some are better than others, but holy manger, Batman, are there some absolute Christmas bangers. From Motown to Stax to Atlantic—they took us here (pow) and then took us there (pow).
Because I like to make things harder on myself than I need to, I’ve decided to rank the 10 best soul Christmas songs. While this list will include a ranking, it’s really like No. 1 and then No. 1b for slots No. 2 through No. 10. And you could add a solid 20 more and still fight about them all. But as Joe sang so eloquently on his 2000 album My Name Is Joe, somebody’s gotta be on top.
(Note: This list does not include contemporary R&B artists like Mariah Carey or Boyz II Men, whose Christmas Interpretations album is one of the best Christmas albums of all time. This is all “soul” music. Again, fight me, bro.)
10. “Back Door Santa,” by Clarence Carter
9. “Silent Night,” by the Temptations
8. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” by the Jackson 5
7. “Someday at Christmas,” by Stevie Wonder
6. “What Do the Lonely Do at Christmas?” by the Emotions
5. “My Favorite Things,” by the Supremes
4. “Happy Holidays,” by the Whispers
3. “I Want to Come Home at Christmas,” by Marvin Gaye
2. “Merry Christmas, Baby,” by Otis Redding
1. “This Christmas,” by Donny Hathaway
Let the games begin. Fight me, bro. Fight me.