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Best Motown Christmas Songs: An Essential Seasonal Playlist

Christmas is a time for fun – and what could be more festive than dancing to a classic such as “Frosty The Snowman,” delivered Motown-style? As part of the Motown Christmas playlist full of Motown’s holiday magic, Jackson 5 deliver a twinkly version of the song which has the unmistakable groove of classic Motor City cool – as, indeed, do all the best Motown Christmas songs.

Listen to the best Motown Christmas songs on Spotify, and scroll down for our ten best Motown Christmas songs.

Jackson 5: Frosty The Snowman

“Frosty The Snowman,” written by Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson, started out as a country song and was a hit for Gene Autry in 1950. But under the direction of Detroit-based arrangers, it became a Motown classic for Jackson 5 in 1970, with 12-year-old Michael Jackson capturing the uplifting spirit of Christmas with a track on their best-selling festive album that year.

The Temptations: Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer

1970 was a good year for Motown holiday albums, and The Temptations Christmas Card produced a number of hits, including their splendid version of another song originally covered by Gene Autry, “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Eddie Kendricks, known for his distinctive falsetto voice, took the lead vocals, smoothly backed by Paul Williams, Dennis Edwards, Otis Williams, and Melvin Franklin.

Stevie Wonder: What Christmas Means To Me

In “What Christmas Means to Me,” bells jingle-jangle incessantly but otherwise it’s pure Tamla, with a teenaged Stevie Wonder singing gloriously on an upbeat melody before delivering some angelic harmonica on a song co-written by Anna Gaye (the sister of Berry Gordy, and first wife of Marvin Gaye).

Lionel Ritchie: Joy To The World

Lionel Richie has sold more than 100 million records in a 50-year career, and it was natural for him to record a festive album. Sounds Of The Season, recorded during advent in 2004, contains a lovely version of “Joy To The World,” a carol penned by English writer Isaac Watts and first published in 1719.

Diana Ross: This Christmas

Pianist and singer Don Hathaway was only 33 when he died. He left behind a legacy of fantastic songs, including “The Ghetto” and “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know.” When he was in an upbeat mood in 1970, he wrote the festive song “This Christmas,” which has become a modern seasonal classic. Diana Ross recorded a lovely version in 1974.

The Supremes: Silver Bells

“Silver Bells” had long been an American favorite by the time The Supremes recorded the song for their 1965 album Merry Christmas, which was recorded at the legendary Hitsville USA Studio, the name by which Motown’s headquarters was known. “Silver Bells,” written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, had been sung by Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in the past, but The Supremes add their own super Motown groove.

Four Tops: Away In A Manger

Abdul “Duke” Fakir, singer and founding member of Four Tops, created his own lavish arrangements for the group’s 1995 version of the Christmas classic “Away In A Manger.” The song was on the album Christmas Here With You, which featured saxophones, flugelhorn, French horn and copious strings – and some guest vocals from Aretha Franklin.

Marvin Gaye: Purple Snowflakes

Marvin Gaye took his song “Pretty Little Baby” and re-worked it in 1973 into a seasonal song called “Purple Snowflakes,” which has a psychedelic feel. Gaye’s haunting yet magical song describes how something as simple as watching snow fall can have a life-affirming effect. One of the best Motown Christmas songs out there, it’s also one of the more unusual songs from the maestro who gave us “What’s Going On.”

Kim Weston: Wish You A Merry Christmas

Without a figgy pudding in sight, Kim Weston’s Motown gem from 1962 is unrelated to the traditional song “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” Weston – known for the hit duet “It Takes Two” with Marvin Gaye – recorded her festive classic when she was just 22 and newly signed to Motown. It was written and produced by Mickey Stevenson, the company’s A&R manager.

Boyz II Men: Let It Snow

Motown hit the charts with a modern version of a Christmas song in 1993 when Boyz II Men teamed up with R&B singer Brian McKnight to record a version of “Let It Snow.” One of the best Motown Christmas songs of recent decades, the track was the only single from their holiday album, Christmas Interpretations, and reached the Top 50 of the Billboard charts.

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Best Motown Christmas Songs: An Essential Seasonal

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Best Christmas Songs: 56 Essential Seasonal Classics

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8 hours ago The Temptations may refer to at least two groups 1. The Temptations are an American Motown singing group whose repertoire has included doo-wop, soul, psychedelia, funk, disco, rnb, and adult contemporary. Formed in Detroit, Michigan in 1960 as The Elgins.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the songs on the Temptations Christmas album?

This Motown album contains traditional holiday songs given a slightly soulful twist. The first half of the album contains Rudolph, Silver Bells, Lil Drummer Boy, Santa is Comin to Town, White Christmas and Let it Snow from the Tempts 1970 album, "Christmas Card."

When did the Temptations win the American Music Award?

The Temptations are also the very first group awarded Favorite Soul/R&B Band/Duo/Vocal Group at the inaugural American Music Award’s program in 1974. By 1975, The Temptations have recorded, A Song for You, another #1 R&B chart album, that wins the 1976 American Music Award for Best Soul/R&B Album.

Who are the original members of the Temptations?

In the 60’s the classic lineup—Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams—creates some of the most memorable songs from the group’s extraordinary catalog of super hits. The first several years of their career, Smokey Robinson is the Temptations’ primary producer and song writer.

When did the Temptations wish it would rain come out?

The Temptations Wish It Would Rain album, produced by Whitfield, the group’s seventh studio album, releases on April 29, 1968, and marks their unprecedented 8 th consecutive #1 R&B album (including their Temptations Live! album, which is the group’s first live album).

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Hearing Christmas songs in shopping centres, at work and on the radio really does signal the start of the festive season.

However, which festive song is the best is a hotly contended question. We've delivered our opinion below, featuring songs from the 1930s up until 2020.

From the Christmas OG artists like Mariah Carey, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and Michale Bublé to modern smashes from Ariana Grande and Kelly Clarkson to hidden gems from Darlene Love and Stevie Wonder, see what you think for yourself.

We've rounded up the top 53 best Christmas songs, in ascending order, below...

53Cuddle Up, Cozy Down Christmas - Dolly Parton

Parton released her Christmas album, A Holly Dolly Christmas, back in October and it featured some incredible festive classics and duets with the likes of Jimmy Fallon, Miley Cyrus, Michael Bublé and Billy Ray Cyrus. Our favourite? Her collaboration with Bublé - you just can't not want to bop along to it.

52Tell Your Mama - Aloe Blacc

We love a bit of Aloe Blacc any time of year, but we're quite into this festive beat from Blacc's album Christmas Funk. We love the lyrics and the Stevie Wonder-like vocals.

51Cozy Little Christmas - Katy Perry

Katy Perry at Christmas - need we say more? We love this jazzy song, the singer's red lip, silver eyeshadow, red and white striped attire. We could play this on repeat... and we shall.

50Santa's Coming For Us - Sia

Sia is another modern artist who released a Christmas song in the 2010s, offering up 'Santa's Coming For Us' in 2017 with a video featuring A-List couple Kristen Bell and Dax Shepherd.

49You Make It Feel Like Christmas - Gwen Stefani ft Blake Shelton

No Doubt's Gwen Stefani teamed up with her fiancé, country singer Blake Shelton for this festive hit. We weren't sure at first, but with more listens, we're kind of diggin it?

48Oh Santa - Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson

Mariah Carey enlisted the help of Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson for a 2020 reworking of her 2010 hit, 'Oh Santa'. Just listen to the harmonies.

47Mary's Boy Child - Oh My Lord - Boney M.

The Caribbean group recorded their version of Harry Belafonte's Christmas carol hit in 1978.

46Like It's Christmas - The Jonas Brothers

The Jonas Brothers have a Christmas song, you ask? Why yes, they do! Released in 2019, 'Like It's Christmas' is very catchy and clearly many agree as the song reached number one on the US Billboard charts in 2019.

45Feliz Navidad - José Feliciano

Penned by Puerto Rican singer Feliciano in 1970, the Spanish good wishes remain a classic five decades later.

43Mistletoe - Justin Bieber

The Canadian singer released a whole Christmas album Under The Mistletoe in 2011, but it was lead single Mistletoe that remains a 21st Century Christmas favourite.

42Jingle Bell Rock - Bobby Helms

Released in 1957 by Bobby Helms, made famous for Millennials in 2004 thanks to Mean Girls.

41Thank God It's Christmas - Queen

Perhaps this year more than ever the title of this song applies. But Freddie Mercury's soothing vocals are always welcome.

40Christmas In Hollis - RUN DMC

Yep, for those who didn't know, there is a Christmas Hip-Hop track, and it's blimmin' great. RUN DMC released their track in 1987, you might recognise it as featuring on the soundtracks for both Die Hard and The Grinch.

39One More Sleep - Leona Lewis

Bleeding Love, aside, we think this 2013 Christmas number isLeona Lewis's best hit (and better than her actual Christmas number one as X Factor winner which was a cover of 'A Moment Like This').

38Do They Know It's Christmas? - Band Aid

Arguably the most star-studded artist on this list, Band Aid comprised of David Bowie, Boy George, Bono, George Michael the list goes on... Written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in response to the 1984 Ethiopian famine, the song raised a lot of money but has been criticised - particularly as time has gone on - for its very Western-centric stereotypical and condescending lyrics about Africa.

37Bing Crosby and David Bowie - Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy

A duet that dreams are made of: Bing Crosby and David Bowie's unique blend of two Christmas songs was released in 1983.

36What Christmas Means To Me - Stevie Wonder

A Christmas film classic, Stevie Wonder's 1967 cover - complete with a harmonica - of the Motown festive hit is a feel-good anthem for the ages.

35Run Rudolph Run - Chuck Berry

Evoking instant visions of a 1950s couple jiving, 'Run Rudolph Run' was recorded by Chuck Berry in 1958 and also co-written by Johnny Marks.

34Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Judy Garland

First performed rousingly by Judy Garland in 1944's festive film Meet Me In St Louis, the song has been covered from Frank Sinatra to Sam Smith in recent years.

33Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt

Over the years, there has been versions from everyone from Kylie Minogue to Gwen Stefani to Ariana Grande. But this song was first sung by Eartha Kitt in 1953 where it was met with outrage and bans over its suggestive (read: brilliant) lyrics.

32Stop The Cavalry - Jona Lewie

This 1980 anti-war song was actually never intended as a Christmas song, Jona Lewis told The Guardian in 2015 but thanks to the Salvation Army's instrumental contribution and the lyric, 'Wish I was at home for Christmas' it did. According to Lewie, he 'earn[s] more from 'Stop the Cavalry' than from the rest of my songs put together.'

31The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole

'Chestnuts roasting on an open fire'... the first line of Nat King Cole's famous song alone make you feel cosy and Christmassy.

30It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year - Andy Williams

A trusty Christmas favourite from American singer Andy Williams, the song was first released in 1963.

29Little Saint Nick - The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys released their unmistakeable signature Christmas anthem in 1963.

28Joy To The World - Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey took this traditional Christmas carol a beautiful rendition in 1995, with the aid of a phenomenal gospel choir. The music video was filmed at New York City's decadent Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

27Merry Christmas Baby - Otis Redding

The combination of a saxophone with Christmas jingle makes 'Merry Christmas Baby' a dreamy melody for the festive season. First written by Charles Brown in 1947, the single has been covered by numerous artists since, including this 1968 Otis Redding version.

26All Alone On Christmas - Darlene Love

Darlene Love appears twice on this list too and thanks to her Christmas song offering this should be no surprise.

Released in 1992, as a soundtrack for Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (Macaulay Culkin appears in the music video), the song has become as beloved as the movie.

258 Days Of Christmas - Destiny's Child

Beyoncé, Kelly and Michelle in a toy store in Santa outfits with a Destiny's Child-twist is what we need this and every Christmas. The R&B Christmas bop we didn't know we needed, the single was releaased in 2001.

24This Christmas - Donny Hathaway

With an iconic Christmas intro, this song by soul singer Donny Hathaway is a gem. Hathaways' dreamy vocals combined with upbeat, festive lyrics seem like a great choice for festive listening in 2020.

23Lonely This Christmas - Mud

Poor old Mud, this song has been misattributed to Elvis Presley on several occasions thanks to the moody baritones and 1950s style piano beats, but it was English rock band Mud who sent this song to Christmas number one in 1974.

22Winter Wonderland - Ella Fitzgerald

Another default Christmas song thanks to its wintery themes is 'Winter Wonderland' whose origins lay in the 1930s. On this list, is the brilliant and soothing Ella Fitzgerald jazz version from 1960.

21Santa Tell Me - Ariana Grande

Another brilliant recent Christmas offering comes thanks to Ariana Grande, another huge Christmas fan, in 2014. The video - featuring Grand and pals in Christmas onesies and jumpers - has since been viewed more than 200 million times on YouTube.

20Stay Another Day - East 17

The black and white video, the puffer coats... iconic. This track by the straight-out-of-Walthamstow 90s British boyband - and OG 'bad boys' boyband - remains a classic.

19White Christmas - Bing Crosby

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Bing Crosby's 1942 single 'White Christmas' is the biggest selling single ever, with 50 million copies sold worldwide. Wowza.

18Brenda Lee - Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree

Penned by Johnny Marks, a Christmas songwriter extraordinaire having also written 'Holly Jolly Christmas' and 'Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer', it was made a hit by American singer Brenda Lee in 1958.

17Wonderful Christmastime - Paul McCartney

The second Beatle on the list is Paul McCartney who released upbeat jingle-fuelled song Wonderful Christmastime in 1979 for his debut solo album.

16It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas - Michael Bublé

Originally recorded by Meredith Wilson in 1951, you couldn't not feature Mr Christmas himself, Michael Bublé right?

15Underneath The Tree - Kelly Clarkson

It's difficult to make a new-ish Christmas song as iconic as the old favourites but Kelly Clarkson delivered when she released Underneath The Tree in 2013.

14Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! - Frank Sinatra

One of our favourite Christmas songs to actually not mention Christmas at all. The wintery vibes the song delivers serve as a perfect festive anthem no less. Covered several times over the years after first being written in the 1940s, here's the Frank Sinatra version from 1950.

13Santa Claus Is Coming To Town - Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey appears on this list more than once (and more than twice, in fact) but what else do you expect on a Christmas songs roundup?

Reportedly first written in the 1930s, the song has been covered a multitude of times including by Bing Crosby, the Four Seasons, The Jackson 5 and Michael Bublé.

But the best version is by Mariah, Bruce Springsteen fans don't @ me.

12Driving Home For Christmas - Chris Rea

A must-have on the radio when you are in fact driving home for Christmas, the raspy vocals of Rea are the perfect way to get excited for December 25.

11Christmas Wrapping - The Waitresses

A song by a band that people might not have heard of if not for this absolute corker of a Christmas song. Released by American group The Waitresses in 1981, the band split three years alter.

10Happy Xmas (War Is Over) - John Lennon and Yoko Ono

John Lennon and Yoko Ono's pacifist anthem, with backing vocals from the Harlem Community Choir, is now a Christmas staple almost 50 years later.

9Merry Christmas Everyone - Shakin' Stevens

With a piano background like this, it was bound to be a Christmas hit. Currently number 6 in the UK singles chart, the song was Christmas number one upon its release in 1985.

8Step Into Christmas - Elton John

An oldie but a goodie, Elton John and his trusty songwriting partner (if you've watched Rocketman you'll know), Bernie Taupin penned this Christmas hit back in 1973.

7Sleigh Ride - The Ronettes

We don't know whether it's the jingles, the clip-clopping sound of (reindeers?) feet or the whinny-ing sound of horses, but there's a whole lot of Christmas in this iconic song's intro.

The Ronettes made this song a hit in 1963 and its appeared in countless Christmas films ever since.

6Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - Darlene Love

An underrated festive song that deserves to be top 10. First recorded in 1963 by former backing artist Darlene Love (side note: Please watch 20 Feet From Stardom, if you haven't already), the song is a true Christmas banger largely thanks to Love's rousing vocals.

5Merry Christmas Everybody - Slade

Is there any better way to signal the start of the Christmas season than Noddy Holder screaming out:'It's Christmasssssss'. No, that's why this song is in the top five.

4I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day -Wizzard

The 1970s glam rock offering remains a staple on the UK charts every year. It's currently number 19 on the U singles chart.

3 Fairytale Of New York - The Pogues

This song was officially voted the UK's favourite Christmas song in a 2012 poll for ITV. Classic Brits to vote the un-cheeriest Christmas song as the best.

2Last Christmas - Wham!

We rank George Michael's 1985 offering in a close second place. Despite the sheer 1980s nature of it, from the hair to the skiwear, it's timeless.

1All I Want For Christmas - Mariah Carey

We mean, naturally the Queen of Christmas takes the top spot. Though, some fun trivia for you: This song only made the number one spot in the UK charts in 2020, 26 years after its release. According to the BBC, the song earned Carey more than $60m (£45m) in royalties over the years, and has cumulatively spent 70 weeks in the UK's top 100.

Olivia BlairDigital News EditorOlivia is ELLE's Digital News Editor covering pop culture, royal, lifestyle and women's news and features.

Katie O'MalleyDeputy Digital EditorKatie O’Malley is the Deputy Digital Editor, at ELLE UK.

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