Paul Simon’s Christmas Gets Animated in April

So Beau­ti­ful or So What – Paul Simon’s 12th solo album (and his first release since 2006) hit the streets and ether last week. Crit­ics are call­ing it his best album since The Rhythm of the Saints (1990), if not Grace­land (1986). And it all starts out with “Get­ting Ready for Christ­mas Day,” a song that works well out­side the con­ven­tions of your usu­al Christ­mas song. As The Tele­graph reminds us, the song is over­whelm­ing­ly sec­u­lar, even a tad polit­i­cal:

I got a nephew in Iraq
It’s his third time back
But it’s end­ing up the way it began
With the luck of a begin­ner
He’ll be eat­ing turkey din­ner
On some moun­tain top in Pak­istan.

And it’s writ­ten by some­one out­side the Chris­t­ian faith, though that nev­er stopped Neil Dia­mond, Bar­bara Streisand or Car­ole King from knock­ing out a Christ­mas tune. If there is a spir­i­tu­al ele­ment, it per­haps comes down to this: Quite catchi­ly, the song’s cho­rus builds around excerpts from a 1941 ser­mon by the Rev. J.M. Gates, an influ­en­tial preach­er who became the most record­ed Gospel singer before World War II. Get more on Gates and his sam­pled ser­mon here.

Today, we’re offer­ing three videos that accom­pa­ny this song. First, a splen­did ani­ma­tion fea­tured above. Next, the offi­cial­ly released video. And final­ly a live per­for­mance record­ed on The Col­bert Report late last year.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.