Motown Christmas Songs


At its peak in the sixties Detroit's Motown label boasted an army of successful artists that gave soul music a soft pop underbelly. It was a hugely success formula (scoring over 100 Top 10 hits) which created a unique sound that remains instantly recognisable. The most famous of its roster included Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross & The Supremes, the Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder. Luckily for us many of these high profile artists were not only prolific 11 months of the year but also put enormous effort in making music for December. The result is a rich seam of Christmas tracks from the cream of Motown. Acts like Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and the Supremes and the Jackson 5 even recorded memorable full lengths to supplement the dozens of tracks that made up a trio of Motown Christmas compilations during the 60's and 70's.

The Best Motown Christmas Songs

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - Deck The Halls / Bring A Torch, Jeannette, Isabella

The Jackson 5 - Little Drummer Boy

The Supremes - Silver Bells

Stevie Wonder - What Christmas Means To Me

The Jackson 5 - I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

The Supremes - Children's Christmas Song

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - Christmas Everyday

The Temptations - Little Drummer Boy

Marvin Gaye - Purple Snowflakes

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - I Believe In Christmas Eve

Motown Christmas Albums

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - Christmas With The Miracles

1963: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - Christmas With The Miracles

Nine of the ten tracks on the Miracles first Christmas album were well known standards like 'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town', 'The Christmas Song' and 'O Holy Night'. But that's not to say that they didn't sound like completely new festive wonders thanks to Smokey Robinson's genius. Each track arrived with a pep in its step and you'll likely get the same feeling before too long. The most ear opening number came from Smokey Robinson's wife Claudette who sang on the stripped down funktastic 'Let It Snow' which is bizarrely close to what Prince would produce years later. 'Christmas With The Miracles' included one original track written by Robinson called 'Christmas Everyday' and it doesn't sound out of place amongst the tried and tested classics that surround it.

The Supremes - Merry Christmas

1965: The Supremes - Merry Christmas

Considering how successful 'Merry Christmas' was it seems a tad surprising that the Supremes only recorded one full length holiday record. But we should be thankful for the 12 pieces of glitter that came our way. Normally Diana Ross's faultless vocals would be enough but when you add the wonderful production and backing harmonies from heaven you really have a special record. 5/6 of the album came from well known efforts like 'Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer' (orchestrated at 33rpm instead of 45rpm), 'Joy To The World' (sounding as triumphant as possible) and 'White Christmas' (transformed into lounge music par excellence). There were also 2 new tracks 'Children's Christmas Song' and 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Me', the former of is rarely heard which is an injustice that needs to be righted.

Various Artists - Merry Christmas From Motown

1968: Various Artists - Merry Christmas From Motown

'Merry Christmas from Motown' was the first of 3 Motown curated Christmas compilations and featured the Supremes, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder turning their hand to holiday favourites. Although it might have been a short affair with just 10 tracks there is absolutely no filler. An undoubted classic Christmas record.

The Jackson 5 - Christmas Album

1970: The Jackson 5 - Christmas Album

Just like the Supremes the Jackson family only ever released one Christmas album but such was the quality on 'Jackson 5 Christmas Album' that it felt like their output was much more expansive. Besides their now ubiquitous (as in they are omnipresent every December) 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town' and 'I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus' there is much to savour on the 11 track LP. 'Up On The Rooftop' is an inspired mash-up of 'Here Comes Santa Claus' and the Jackson's own 'The Love You Save'. Much more original is 'Someday At Christmas' which has the ring of a real maverick, at odds with the standard fare you normally find towards the end of Christmas album's. 'Give Love At Christmas' was written by Motown's own in-house hit factory and it shows, with a chorus that pulls at the heartstrings. If you can track down the CD reissue of 'Jackson 5 Christmas Album' you'll find an extra track sung by Michael called 'Little Christmas Tree' included as a bonus. The song showcases the burgeoning talent against a minimal instrumental backdrop.

Various Artists - Christmas Gift 'Rap

1970: Various Artists - Christmas Gift 'Rap

The original vinyl version of this collection of Motown Christmas songs is pretty hard to track down and if you manage the feat you should be prepared to part with plenty of readies. Funny then that it hasn't received a CD reissue, although the songs by the Supremes, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder and the Miracles do all appear elsewhere.

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - The Season For Miracles

1970: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - The Season For Miracles

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles second Christmas record is generally regarded as their best. 'The Season For Miracles' is liberally punctuated with highlights from the grandiose medley opener 'Deck The Halls/Bring A Torch Jeanette Isabella' right through to the uplifting groove of Robinson's original 'I Believe In Christmas Eve'. Elsewhere Robinson pours his heart into 'A Child Is Waiting' and there is an air of genius surrounding every note on the Stevie Wonder penned 'It's Christmas Time'. The old standard 'Jingle Bells' also gets the Smokey treatment and has rarely sounded this funky, or for that matter good, a winning adult take on a children's classic.

The Temptations - The Temptations Christmas Card

1970: The Temptations - The Temptations Christmas Card

The Temptations 'Christmas Card' is bookended by 2 of the best Motown Christmas songs ever. Ok, they may well be cover versions but not many versions of 'Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer' and 'Little Drummer Boy' are better than the ones you'll find on this album. The other 8 tracks may be unremarkable takes on tried and trusted classics like 'White Christmas' and 'Silver Bells' but when you've got such a good start and finish you may well forget about what happened in between.

Various Artists - A Motown Christmas

1973: Various Artists - A Motown Christmas

'A Motown Christmas' is the definitive Christmas collection from the Detroit label. Featuring several tracks from each of Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder and the Temptations it should be enough to give you a taste for the wide and impressive catalogue of Christmas music to emerge from Motown in the 60's and early 70's. Most of the classics are included such as the Jackson 5's 'I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus', 'What Christmas Means To Me' by Stevie Wonder and 'Deck the Halls/Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella' from Smokey Robinson. 'A Motown Christmas' was originally released on vinyl but has resurfaced on CD with a bonus track of Marvin Gaye's 'I Want To Come Home For Christmas'. An indispensable December record.