Frosty the Snowman

Because of his success with Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer, Gene Autry looked for another seasonal song in 1950 that could also become a number one hit. Walter “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson sent Autry a song called Frosty the Snow Man.

Autry recorded the song and it peaked at number seven on the Billboard charts.

Like Rudolph’s story, Frosty’s would go on to become a popular Rankin-Bass TV show.

The Christmas Candy Calendar

There are many ways to keep track of the days remaining until Christmas Day. The most familiar is perhaps the simple “There are 23 shopping days left before Christmas.” People who prefer a religious theme might use an Advent Calendar.

I’d like to introduce a different way of counting down the days. It’s a song called The Christmas Candy Calendar. I found the song many years ago in a book of Christmas music. Although I know many Holiday songs, I was unfamiliar with this one, but it seems to be a favorite of children’s choir directors and elementary school teachers.

The song was written by Robert Maxwell. I wonder if this is the same guy who wrote the songs Ebb Tide and Shangri-La. The Christmas Candy Calendar isn’t mentioned on his Wikipedia page.

Do you know this song? Let me know in the comments.

Bonus Post! November 2014 Music and Video Discoveries

Because of my Christmas Music Challenge, I’ve already posted today. I could have included this post as part of the Challenge, since there is Christmas music mentioned in it, but it is Advent Sunday, and I wanted to dedicate a post to the day and the beginning of the Advent Season.

I want to start a new monthly post, where at the end of each month, I post about the songs and music videos that I discover during that month.

So, without further ado, here is my very first monthly Music and Video Summary!

Asian Pop

If you follow this blog or J-pop at all, you know that November 26, 2014 was an important day in Japanese Pop Music History. Sayumi Michishigi graduated from Morning Musume ’14.

It’s been a tradition during the last few graduations to give the graduate their own solo song and video. Because Sayumi is not known for her singing voice, I was interested to see how Hello!Project would handle her solo. The name of her song was Shaba Daba Do. It ended up being very cute.

Because Sayumi was the last of the older Morning Musume members (the new leader of the group is 17), and was in the group longer than any other person, Hello!Project did something very special. They created a song and music video paying tribute to Sayumi.

The song is done in an old-fashion style – something very new for Morning Musume. You can see the music video of A Looking Back Beauty HERE. It’s very moving, especially for fans of Morning Musume ’14 and Sayumi.

I’ve been following Girls’ Generation and K-pop for a while now and didn’t pay much attention to Morning Musume ’14 and Hello!Project. I was sad to find out that the group Berryz Koubou will be going on indefinite suspension beginning in Spring of 2015. Since the girls of the group have been in it for 10 years, I suppose it is expected. They’re ready to move on with their lives.

Discovering this news, I looked up Berryz Koubou on YouTube and found some songs I didn’t recognize. They were Asian Celebration (2013), Romance wo Katatte (Speaking of Romance), and a song dedicated to their 10th anniversary, the title of which is rather confusing. The last two songs were just released this month.

This month, I also discovered Korea’s oldest running girl group Jewelry. I can’t say I’m a big fan of their music, but I was familiar with Seo In-young (one of the members) from watching Korean variety shows. Jewelry’s songs include Look at Me and One More Time.

Pop Music

taylor-swiftI had never been a fan of Taylor Swift as a country singer. I don’t follow Country Music. But now that she’s crossed over to Pop, things may have changed.

I am sure I’ve must have heard her song Shake it Off before this month, but I finally got around to watching the music video. I’ve watched the video for Blank Space, and I like that, too, even if it is a bit rappy.

Holiday Music

I’m glad to say that there are still ways to make old Christmas songs new again. Baby, It’s Cold Outside was written in 1944, and today, it seems a controversy has grown around it’s intended meanings. Yet, no matter how you feel about the song, you should like Idina Menzel‘s version featuring Michael Buble. If you don’t think the Music Video is cute, I want nothing to do with you.

Straight No Chaser, the a cappella group, released a brand new Christmas song this month featuring Kristen Bell. Text Me Merry Christmas is a catchy, fun song about texting someone you cannot be with on Christmas. It includes expressions like LOL, BRB, and emoji. Watch the Music Video HERE.

What Are You Doing New Years Eve? has been around since 1947, but I don’t remember ever hearing it. I found it on Idina Menzel’s new Christmas album while researching Baby, It’s Cold Outside. I’m surprised that I don’t remember it as it’s been recorded by many well-known singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Johnny Mathis, Patti LaBelle, Barry Manilow, the Carpenters, and others. It may just be age that has erased the memory of this song.

There you go! My first monthly rundown of new songs and music videos (at least new for me). What new music have you discovered this November?

Advent Sunday and O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!

Once upon a time, I was a good Catholic boy, and I learned all about the Liturgical Year. Today is Advent Sunday (November 30, 2014). The First Sunday of Advent is the beginning of the Church’s Liturgical Year and the beginning of the Advent Season. Advent means “Coming,” and the season is used to prepare for Christ’s coming on Christmas Day. (It is also used to prepare for Christ’s second coming.)

I’m not a Catholic boy anymore, but the first song that came to mind for the First Sunday of Advent was O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! It’s not my favorite hymn, but it does relate to the theme of Christ’s coming.

According to the Wikipedia article, the hymn goes back to the 12th century. In it’s original Latin, its title is Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, and its was first translated into German in the 1700s. It’s now one of the most popular Advent Hymns all over the world and is sung in many different languages.

What’s your favorite Advent Hymn?

Johnny Marks: The Christmas Song Writer

Yesterday, I wrote about the Christmas song Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer. If you read that post, you know that the original story of Rudolph was written by Robert L. May, an employee of Montgomery Ward. It was May’s brother-in-law Johnny Marks that adapted the poem into a song that became a number one hit.

Rudolph’s song would not be the last Christmas song that Marks would write. He would go on to compose many of today’s most popular Christmas music. During the 1950s, he wrote When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter, The Night Before Christmas Song, and the well-known Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, which was recorded by Brenda Lee.

In 1956, Johnny Marks adapted a 1863 poem called Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and wrote the music for I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

Marks would write more Christmas songs. As part of the 1964 television adaptation of the Rudolph story by NBC and Rankin-Bass. Many of the new songs became Christmas classics. Marks contributions to the video include:

  • A Holly Jolly Christmas
  • Jingle, Jingle, Jingle
  • The Most Wonderful Day of the Year
  • Silver and Gold
  • We Are Santa’s Elves
  • There’s Always Tomorrow
  • The Island of Misfit Toys
  • We’re a Couple of Misfits


All of these Christmas songs are well known. What isn’t so well known is that the man who wrote them was Jewish. How about that?

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer: A Shopping Gimick

“You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen
Comet and Cupid, and Donner and Blitzen,
But do you recall, the most famous reindeer of all?”

Of course, you do! It’s Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.

Those Tricky Retailers

Today is Black Friday. Traditionally the beginning of the Christmas Shopping Season, Black Friday has been said to be the day that many store ledgers (the books showing their profits) go into the black. (In old-school accounting, profit would be shown in black, while deficit would be written in red ink.)

Many people complain that the Christmas Season has become too commercial. This isn’t a new observation. Ever since gift-giving became an established Christmas tradition, retailers have been looking for ways to lure in customers during the pre-Christmas season.

Remember that parade that was held yesterday? Yes, the big one. Whose name was included in the title? Macy’s! A giant department store. Macy’s has sponsored the New York Thanksgiving Day Parade since they established it in 1924. Macy’s established the parade because their competitors the Gimbel Brothers had already held Thanksgiving Day parades in Philadelphia.

Where do the parades end? At the department stores. Gimbels even went so far as to have Santa climb a fire truck’s ladder into the store, where they had built their “Toyland,” which covered an entire floor.

Nowadays, you can even shop at many of the stores after Thanksgiving dinner is over.

What has all this to do with the song Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer?.

Rudolph is a Gimick

We’re all familiar with the famous song written by Johnny Marks in 1949. It has become a Christmas standard. Yet, the story of Rudolph started many years earlier.

Front cover of Rudolph, the Red-nosed ReindeerIn the 1930s, the Chicago based department store chain Montgomery Ward gave out free coloring books during the Christmas Shopping Season. They had to pay for the books, which cut into their profits. Therefore, in 1939, they decided that they needed to publish their own books.

Robert L. May was an advertising copywriter for the department store, and he was given the task of creating a new character and a new story. May wrote a poem in the tradition of Twas the Night before Christmas which was about a red-nosed reindeer, who was an outcast, until Santa need his help to deliver his toys on Christmas Eve.

Montgomery Ward gave out over two-and-a-half copies of their Rudolph coloring book in the first year alone.

What About the Song?

May’s brother-in-law just happened to be Johnny Marks, the writer of a few now famous Christmas songs. Marks adopted May’s poem into a song. In 1949, Gene Autry recorded the song, and it became a number one hit just before Christmas of that year.

The rest, as they say, has gone down in History.

Thanksgiving Songs and a Song Challenge

Thanksgiving can be an ambiguous holiday for me, since I’m a non-believer. I mean, to whom am I supposed to be thankful? Yet, I do feel gratitude for many things in my life, and I manage to find sources for those things and offer a thought or a song of thanks.

I am very thankful for my love of Music. I know this came from my biological father and his family and friends. While I don’t remember my mother’s family enjoying music, I have a couple of memories of my father that are related to music. So, I offer Abba’s Thank You for the Music to my paternal ancestors as a token of my gratitude.

Of course, I cannot forget my mother and her family on Thanksgiving. My mother gave me a love of event planning, especially during the holidays. I believe this also is where I gained a sense of Theatrics (set design, rehearsing, planning the big show, etc.) She would decorate the house and cook the entire feast. Our house would be the place where extended family would come and sit at the big table (and the kid’s table) to celebrate the big holidays, including Thanksgiving.

It’s been hard on my mom since my siblings married and have to share the holidays with in-laws. I live over a thousand miles away, so I usually cannot travel home for the holidays. Yet, my mom still tries to make her house a pleasant place to visit during the holidays. It may be corny and not so relevant since she lives in the city, but Over the River and Through the Woods is the song that conveys that feeling of wanting to spend time with family during the holidays.

Then, there’s my friend Darlene. She’s help me so much and for such a long time, I’d be a fool not to be thankful to her. Let’s see… “thanks,” “friend”… only one song will do. Darlene, Thank You for Being a Friend.

Popular Thanksgiving Songs

I was never a fan of Adam Sandler, but his song seems to be one of the most popular for this particular holiday. He sings The Thanksgiving Song in such an irritating falsetto that I want to throw a bowl of cranberry sauce at him. BUT, the song does mention turkey.

Speaking of turkey, Turkey in the Straw is probably the oldest and most popular song about turkeys.

Let’s not forget that Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Christmas Shopping Season. This is more true today than ever before, since many stores now open on Thanksgiving Day instead of waiting for Black Friday (but I’m not opening that can of worms – I know better).

Santa has already shown up at many malls, but the Thanksgiving Day Parade used to be his official method of arriving in town. What song would be played as Santa’s sleigh appeared down the block? It was Santa Claus is Coming to Town, one of the most popular Christmas songs about St. Nick.

A Christmas Song Challenge

Now that Santa is in town, I’m going to try and blog about Christmas and other Holiday songs each day until Christmas Day. I wonder if I can do it.

The End of a J-Pop Era: The Graduation of Sayumi

Sayumi Michishige of Morning Musume
Michishige san invented the Usa-chan Peace pose.

She cannot sing. She is clumsy and not at all athletic. Her ‘character’ is narcissistic. She calls herself the number one cutest member of not only Morning Musume but of the entire Hello Project and beyond.

Yet, today is a sad day for fans of Japanese Pop Music. It is the day that Sayumi Michishige graduates (leaves) Morning Musume.

End of a Golden Age

The ceremony will take place at Yokohama Arena during Morning Musume ’14’s final performance of their “Give Me More Love” Tour. The event will probably include the usual graduation rituals: members will present Sayu with flowers and emotionally tell her how they feel about her leaving, Sayu will pass her leadership of the group onto Mizuki Fukumura (the second oldest member), she’ll read her graduation speech, and sing her farewell song “Shaba Daba Do.” But this isn’t just a normal graduation, as many consider this the end of Morning Musume’s golden era.

Michishige joined the group in 2003 as part of its sixth generation. After 11 years and now at 25 years old, she has been in Morning Musume longer than any other memeber. During her time with Momusu, the group has had many number one hits on Japan’s Oricon charts. Morning Musume has traveled the globe, performing in Asia, Europe, and America (most recently in New York in October, 2014). Sayumi has been the group’s leader, since Risa Niigaki’s graduation in May, 2012.

The important issue surrounding this graduation is the fact that Mizuki (the new leader) is a ninth generation member. No one from the seventh or eight generation remains to connect the group to its pre-2011 past. Over the past few years, the group’s producer Tsunku has changed the style of their music from upbeat, pop-oriented sounds to a more techno sound, and he’s lower the average age of the group’s members. Additionally, the group’s name was changed to Morning Musume ’14. It’ll be Morning Musume ’15 come January.

Morning Musume 10th Anniversary album cover
Morning Musume’s 10th Anniversary album was released in 2007.
Morning Musume is not the same as it was when Sayumi joined in 2003. It’s not the same as it was a few years ago. It has a different feeling – a different image. This is, of course, expected. Things change. Music groups evolve. Morning Musume may be able to hold on to its position as one of the most popular girl groups in Japan, but many believe it will never be what it was. With Michishige’s graduation, all ties to the old Morning Musume are gone, its Golden Age over.

Tribute to Sayumi Michishige

During her years in Morning Musumem, Sayu has experienced being a singer (she admits that her voice is weak), a dancer, a model, an actress (on stage, film, and television), a voice actor, a Mistress of Ceremonies, a variety show personality, and other activities associated with idols of her level. It’s no wonder that she wants to take a break from the entertainment world after she graduates.

She took on the role of the self-loving, cute diva of the group, whose pointed tongue often hurled insults at those who would question her number one position. Yet, anyone who has followed the group over the years knows that she is actually a very caring person. She was always anxious about performing and getting things right. She is funny, beautiful, and confident – the last only coming after years of experience and effort.

Today we are sad that Sayumi Michishige is leaving. She may play at being someone we love to hate sometimes, but we know her secret. She is a wonderful person. She started her career as a doubtful girl who turned into an elegant beauty. No wonder Hello Project saw fit to make a music video dedicated to this Looking Back Beauty.

There is joy in the sadness. There is a reason to celebrate. There’s to you Sayumi Michishige. We can’t wait to see what you will do next.

We’re On A Comet! Don’t Stop Us Now

After a dry period, Bob has decided to take the blog in a new direction and write about his true passion: Music.

On November 12, 2014, the European Space Agency (ESA) landed a probe on a comet. We human beings can sometimes do great things, and this event marks the beginning of a new understanding about comets and the beginnings of our solar system.

This great achievement makes me think of a recent song used on an episode of Doctor Who. The song is Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” – a song I previously did not know.

After a mellow introduction, the tempo speeds up to a pace that matches the comet’s speed of 41,000 miles an hour. With lyrics like “I’m a shooting star leaping through the skies” and “I’m burning through the sky”, the song seems to be about the comet and our little machine soaring through space around the Sun. There’s also mention of a rocket ship.

The best part about my discovering this song was the BBC’s music video. It features the English singer/songwriter Foxes singing a jazzy version of “Don’t Stop Me Now.” With action-packed clips from Peter Capaldi’s first season as the Doctor, the video is full of energy. It’s the combination of the energy of the video, the tempo of the music, and the lyrics that made me associate the song with the comet.

What about you? Does the idea of a man-made device landing on a speeding comet bring a song to your mind? Register/Sign In and leave a comment below, or you can post your thoughts on my Facebook page.

Character Development in Moonlight Reflections: Rachael

A Victorian image of a moon woman
In 2011, I wrote a 10 minute play called “A Date with an Anime Princess.” It’s now 2014, and I’ve written a sequel. The positive reaction to the script has inspired me to write an entire series of short plays based on the characters. I’m calling the series Moonlight Reflections.

Rachael is one of the main characters of the series. She is a fangirl of the Princess Luna Kitty anime, and often cosplays as Luna. The series follows Rachael and Tim (another anime fan and cosplayer) from their first meeting through their eventual marriage and first pregnancy.

Phase One of Rachael’s Character Development

When I wrote the first play, I tried to make Rachael a lot like the anime character she so admired: cute, kind, and playful, but strong — with a need to fight injustice. She is a sweet girl, but tends to get angry when she feels someone is being unfair. This can be seen when Tim tries to inhibit her very public enthusiasm for cosplay:

“You’re asking me to give up my individuality, my creativity, to fit in — to give up my idea of fashion and art — of fun — just to make everyone else happy.”

I was writing a 10 minute play, and didn’t spend too much time developing the character. Now that I’ve decided to write more stories involving Rachael, I need to round out her personality, and I need to do it using the character traits I’ve already established. To do this, I’ll rely on the dialogue in the first script, because it provides clues to her basic personality. I’ll also need to work more on the character’s backstory and make her more realistic.

A More Rounded Rachael

Starting out, I have a young woman who has the following traits: cute, kind, playful, flirtatious, just, and nerdy (she cosplays). She tells Tim she is a music therapist in a mental hospital, so she is also musical, caring, and giving.

Rachael didn’t have a last name in the first script, so I started there. I think I just picked the name Rachael randomly, and it has no meaning for the character, therefore, I decided that I’d give her the middle name of Catherine, since Kitty is one of its nicknames. For a last name, I chose Landere. According to some baby name sites, Llandere is a girl’s name that means “moon woman” — very appropriate for someone who pretends to be a princess named Luna. Rachael Catherine Landere is a pretty nice name.

Next, I need to ask some questions. Why did Rachael become a music therapist? Why is she into cosplay, and why is she so attached to Princess Luna Kitty? I may not share the answers to these questions in the plays, but having the information will help me write a better character.

I decided to make Rachael a pianist. She’s studied music for many years and is quite accomplished, but that doesn’t explain why she is a therapist at a mental institution.

From my research, I’ve found out that many cosplayers dress up as characters and go to conventions to escape the worries and boredom of everyday life. What if Rachael’s inclination to study music therapy and her desire to cosplay were inspired by the same things: a need to help mentally ill patients and a passion for escape into fantasy.

Perhaps a member of Rachael’s family suffered from a mental illness. Perhaps she found that her music helped to sooth the person’s suffering. Maybe she used cosplay as a way to temporarily remove herself from the reality of caring for a mentally ill person.

Rachael’s Story

Rachael Catherine Landere’s mother suffers from Schizophrenia. Rachael found that playing the piano often helped her mother’s condition, so she decided to help others and majored in Music Therapy.

Yet, the stress of caring for her mother and the workload at college was tough for Rachael. When she discovered anime and cosplay, she enthusiastically entered the world of conventions and cosplay competitions, because it helped her escape from her troubles. She particularly liked portraying Princess Luna Kitty because the character shared a lot of her traits, displayed a calmness during hard times, and had the ability to heal illness.

A Step on My Journey as a Writer

In coming up with Rachael’s backstory, I’m not only creating a more rounded character, I’m adding a lot more detail to Rachael’s life. The details fit together well and could happen in real life, so it makes the character more plausible.

This will help me write better dialog, because I know Rachael and her story. It’s only one step of my journey as a playwright, but it’s an important one.