TRACK OF THE WEEK
DAY & DATE: Debuts on the Billboard “Best Bets For Christmas” chart for the week ending Saturday, December 23, 1967.
SONGWRITERS: Ronald Miller, Bryan Wells.
PRODUCER: Henry “Hank” Cosby.
BACKSTORY: Whoever at Billboard selected Stevie Wonder’s Someday At Christmas for the magazine’s spotlight on holiday releases in 1967 probably could not have imagined that one of the album’s tracks would still be finding favour a half-century later. Chances are that Stevie couldn’t have imagined that, either. And yet “Someday At Christmas” has, if anything, become even more popular in the last few years, partly helped by the song’s use in a 2015 Apple TV commercial. Stevie himself was at the center of that ad spot – Apple products aside – together with new star Andra Day, and their complete version of “Someday At Christmas” was later released in its own right.
The other notable information about the song concerns the late Ron Miller, its co-writer with Bryan Wells. Although Miller’s name is not as well-known as those of other Motown writers, at least two of his copyrights have become as popular and enduring as most of the hits which the company recorded during the 1960s. One of those two Miller songs is “Someday At Christmas” (more about its remakes below); the other is “For Once In My Life.” The best-known version of the latter is Stevie Wonder’s 1968 hit single, of course, but the song has been recorded many times – by Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Glen Campbell, Michael Bublé, Sammy Davis Jr., Harry Connick Jr., the Osmonds, and two highly popular U.K. stars, Michael Ball and Alfie Boe, among scores of others. Stevie has even remade it himself as a duet with Bennett, released in 2006, when it won a Grammy.
Ron Miller was responsible for writing or co-writing other Wonder hits of the ’60s, including “A Place In The Sun,” “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday” and “Heaven Help Us All.” On Stevie’s Someday At Christmas album, there are five songs co-composed by Miller, as well as the title track. Among them is “Twinkle Twinkle Little Me,” which was first recorded by the Supremes; it appeared on their 1965 Merry Christmas album, and was also the flipside of their holiday single that year, “Children’s Christmas Song.” Today, it can be found on the expanded edition of the trio’s album, The Ultimate Merry Christmas, released in 2017.
REMAKES: A strong seasonal song attracts a wide variety of artists, and “Someday At Christmas” is no exception. Even so, the breadth of those who have remade this one is notable: they include Jack Johnson, Justin Bieber, Pearl Jam and Jars of Clay, as well as a couple of top-rated country music acts, Rascal Flatts and LeAnn Rimes. Naturally, several of Stevie Wonder’s fellow Motown artists have also recorded the song: the Jackson 5 and the Temptations. Diana Ross joined the club with the 1994 release of her album, A Very Special Season, which included “Someday At Christmas” and was reissued in 2018 with extra tracks. It’s the season for giving, after all.
FOOTNOTE: Stevie’s Someday At Christmas album in 1967 included interpretations of several earlier holiday classics, such as “Silver Bells” and “The Little Drummer Boy,” and also a song co-written by Marvin Gaye’s wife, Anna, entitled “What Christmas Means To Me.” Marvin himself never recorded a Christmas album – unlike Smokey Robinson, who recorded three, including two with the Miracles – but he did cut seasonal songs. These included “I Want To Come Home For Christmas” and “The Christmas Song,” both of which were featured on Christmas In The City, a 1993 compilation album of various Motown artists performing seasonal music. Happy holidays!