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12.21.16: Celebrating Sober & Christmas Music: the Good, the Bad, & the Classic

Jacob Whittaker via Flickr CC

For addicts in recovery, the holiday season is a kind of Bermuda triangle. Those fizzy days of celebrations and indulgence can leave them feeling excluded. Today,  a literary companion to recovery - just in time for the holidays.

Then, how many times have you heard Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas is You" this holiday season? Each year it returns to the Billboard top 40. We'll hear a musician's case for why it not only deserves the air time, but also a place in the American songbook. 

Listen to the full show. 

Out of the Wreck I Rise

For alcoholics, addicts and people in recovery, the holiday season can be a minefield. Those fizzy days of parties and celebration between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s – can plunge even the moderate drinker into a sea of overindulgence. Then, on January 1, comes the vow to quit. It’s a challenge for anyone, and one that writers from the roman philosopher Seneca to notorious drinkers like Raymond Carver and Ernest Hemingway have struggled with - some more successfully than others.

Neil Steinberg, a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times and Sara Bader, the creator of the Quotenik, compile the experience of writers and artists from William Shakespeare to David Foster Wallace to illuminate the process of becoming sober. It’s called Out of the Wreck I Rise: A Literary Companion to Recovery

Out of the Wreck I Rise

Living and Dyeing

This story comes to us from Martha's Vineyard where we meet a farmer and artist who has found relief from depression and substance abuse by embracing a traditional art form and a way of life she used to think of as mundane. Producer Melody Rowell brings us the story. 

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org.

Mariah Claus

It's the holiday season, and like the striking of a clock, Mariah Carey's “All I Want for Christmas is You" is once again everywhere - and firmly planted in the Billboard Top 40. Released in 1994, the song has become a classic. Adam Ragusea argues that not only does it deserve to be topping the charts, but has earned a place in the Great American Songbook. Adam teaches journalism at Mercer University. He also hosts The Pub, a podcast for the public broadcasting publication Current.

Related: All I Want for Christmas is Diminished Chords

Mariah Claus

Bonus: Vox's Estelle Caswell made a video primer explaining the magic of Mariah. 

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In Defense of "Wonderful Christmastime"

From the first, unmistakable synthy beats, few seasonal songs divide people as much as Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime." But why? And will anyone stand up for the schlocky 1979 single? It turns out, yes. 

Annie Zaleskiis a freelance journalist and a contributing writer at The AV Club. We found her article "In Defense of Paul McCartney's 'Wonderful Christmastime'"at Salon.  

In Defense of "Wonderful Christmastime"

America's Favorite Christmas Song

Before the break, we took a look at some modern Christmas classics - but now we're turning to the standard by which all Christmas songs are judged. Unlike those earlier songs, it's wistful, not upbeat - and it was America's best-selling song for more than 50 years. This story came to us from Katy Sewall.  

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org.


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