This Christmas

Album: Donny Hathaway (1970)
Charted: 39
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Songfacts®:

  • Hathaway wrote this soulful Christmas song with Nadine McKinnor. It evokes the spirit of the holiday, as he's looking forward to spending the season with friends and family. In the memorable chorus, he sings:

    And this Christmas, will be
    A very special Christmas, for me
  • Like many Christmas songs, this one took a while to find an audience. Released as a single in 1970, it went nowhere, but later became a modern holiday standard, covered by a wide range of artists including Destiny's Child, Aretha Franklin and Lady Antebellum. Chris Brown is the only artist to chart with the song, reaching #62 in 2007 with his rendition.
  • While a blizzard was dumping snow on Chicago in 1967, Nadine McKinnor, a postal worker, was singing Christmas carols to pass the time. She was thinking of Nat King Cole when she came up with the lyrics for this tune, not having a clue who Donny Hathaway was. "I loved 'The Christmas Song' and was trying to capture the swirl of music, department store windows, lights on the South Side - Chicago at Christmas," she told the Chicago Tribune in 2017. "It's like I'm talking about a love affair with the atmosphere of the holiday. My kids were little then, I was out shopping for toys, enjoying the mood. It's a romance with the season."
  • The romantic vibes are set right at the beginning when Hathaway says he's going to hang all the mistletoe in preparation for the holiday with his lady. According to the Christmas custom, which still shows up in tunes like Justin Bieber's "Mistletoe" and Kelly Clarkson's "Under The Mistletoe," a couple who meets under the plant must share a kiss or else they'll welcome bad luck. In Norse mythology, the tradition is associated with Frigga, the goddess of love.
  • The line, "I'm gonna get to know you better," was inspired by Spanky & Our Gang's 1968 pop hit "Like To Get To Know You."
  • Hathaway wanted this to be the definitive Black Christmas carol but, due to his untimely death in 1979 at age 33, he wasn't able to see his wish come true. In 2017, long after the song had become a holiday staple in the Black community, the song was the subject of a Slate story. Lawrence Ware, co-director of the Center for Africana Studies at Oklahoma State University, listened to nothing but covers of "This Christmas" for 48 hours in order to determine the best version. Of course, Hathaway's original emerged as the clear winner.
  • In 2007, a movie called This Christmas was released that was based on this song. Idris Elba, Regina King and Delroy Lindo star in the film along with Chris Brown, who sings the title song.
  • In 2012, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John recorded a version featuring jazz pianist Chick Corea as the title track for their Christmas album. It was the first new artistic work the pair had done together since they recorded the song "Take a Chance" for the 1983 film Two of a Kind.

    The idea for the project came when Newton-John sent a Christmas card to Travolta in which she mentioned "You're The One That I Want" had just become the best-selling duet in pop music history. "From the moment we decided to do this, magic happened," said Travolta. "Everyone we contacted agreed to do it."

    "It just fell into place," added Newton-John. "With our busy schedules, I don't know how we got it done. John and I have always connected. That's never gone away. When we' re together, we have a good laugh and feel bonded to one another. we've been through some amazing experiences together."

    Proceeds from the album were donated by the pair to their respective charities, the Jett Travolta Foundation and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia.
  • Vonda Shepard sang this on the 1997 Ally McBeal episode "Boy To The World."
  • Train covered the song for their 2015 album Christmas in Tahoe. Initially the band had doubts about recording the tune, as they were too intimidated by the late Donny Hathaway's original version.

    "When I heard his version of the song, I thought, 'We can never, ever record that, because he's so incredibly good,'" Monahan told ABC Radio. "Instead of trying to compete with Donny Hathaway, we thought maybe we would just do our interpretation of 'This Christmas,' which is an incredible song, whether it's ours, or his, or anybody's," he added.

    Train's version ended up being their fourth #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart following "Calling All Angels," "Hey Soul Sister" and "Drive By."
  • Jess Glynne released a cover version exclusively on Amazon Music on November 12, 2020. The singer explained that after Amazon Music asked her to record a festive song for them, she chose "This Christmas" because she loves the song's tone.

    Glynne added that because of the COVID pandemic, 2020 had been a difficult year and many people would be unable to meet up with their loved ones over the holidays. Because music can gives "moments of escapism" an "uplifting feel good song is so necessary."

    The single peaked at #3 in the UK Singles Chart.

Comments: 5

  • Lisa from Cleveland, OhDonny Hathaway's voice is unparalleled. There is no other version that will suffice than the original. His voice is like liquid chocolate in the hot cocoa we all have on a cold winters night. The timing is perfect, the tone, the upbeat joy. I was blown away to learn that he was only 24 when he sang this song. Old soul for sure.
  • Phil from HomeWho were the musicians that recorded this hit?
  • Beachykeen from California"This Christmas" is a beautiful, romantic song: the lyrics, the vocals, the instruments, including the sleigh bells, strings, horns and guitars. I want to live this song out some Christmas as described. The song sounds as current today as when it was written. Many covers, but the original is truly the best. Congratulations to Nadine McKinnor for writing the song and to the late, great Donny Hathaway's family on "This Christmas"'s 50th anniversary. What a gift his musical genius has given us year after year.
  • Kevin from Salt Lake City, UtHarry Connick Jr performs (for me) the definitive version of the song on a compilation album "A Jazzy Wonderland". I joke that he sounds half drunk slurring his words (early Harry), but the backup band is Branford Marsalis' which gives this song the punch it deserves. Oddly, Harry recorded several subsequent Christmas albums, but never re-recorded it for those albums.
  • Carlos Jones from Jonesplus@gmail.comThe song has grown to be a perennial staple of Christmas classics, and Hathaway's original version, in my opinion, of course, is the best one.
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