September 27, 2022By Brad Tolinski 0 Comment
The Best Christmas Guitar Songs of All Time
By Brad Tolinski
Nothing can put you in the holiday spirit quicker than Christmas music. While many of the greatest Christmas songs are traditional in nature, since the 1930’s musicians and composers have been busy putting their own contemporary spin on this special time of the year, from children's songs like “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” to sentimental ballads like “White Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Sure… these easy Christmas songs on guitar are probably not why you picked up an axe in the first place. But if you're looking for Christmas songs on guitar that are slightly left of center, then we have some great news for you.
In recent years, some of the greatest guitarists in the world have had a ball revisiting these timeless songs...and some have even created new classics of their own. In the following we’ve made a list—and checked it twice—of some of our favorite guitar-oriented Christmas performances. Some are no doubt familiar to you, but we also tried to dig up some new holiday treasures that we hope will make your day merry and bright.
In need of a great gift for a guitarist this holiday? You can find our can't-fail recommendation at the bottom of this list. But for now, pour that glass of eggnog and let's dig in.
Best Christmas Guitar Songs
John Lennon and Yoko Ono
“Happy Xmas (War is Over)”
This incredible song by Beatle John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono seems particularly calming and relevant. With six easy chords, “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” is a wonderful Christmas song to play on guitar for your “near and dear ones...the old and and the young.” While it was originally written as a protest song against the Vietnam War, its theme of peace is universal and has become a holiday standard.
“Run Rudolph Run”
“Christmas Time is Here”
“The Christmas Song”
Toto guitarist Steve Lukather has played sessions with everyone from jazz legend Miles Davis to Michael Jackson to John Lennon. Here he demonstrates his incredible chops and brilliant arranging skills on this up-tempo version of “The Christmas Song.” While this classic pop melody is usually sung by crooners like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby, Lukather demonstrates that with enough imagination you can take any holiday tune and turn it into a barn burning Christmas song for the guitar.
“One Christmas Night”
The Brian Setzer Orchestra
“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”
“The First Noel”
“Merry Christmas, Baby”
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
Final Thoughts: Best Christmas Guitar Songs
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Need more ideas? Take a peek at our list of best gifts for guitar players.
Brad Tolinski is perhaps best known for his work as the editor-in-chief of Guitar World Magazine for 25 years. He is also the author of Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page (Crown); and Play It Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound and Revolution of the Electric Guitar (Doubleday), which was the basis for a 2019 guitar-focused exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Most recently he edited the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Issue of CREEM magazine, and his latest book Eruption: Conversations with Eddie Van Halen (Hachette) will be coming out in October 2021.