Saturday Night Live's 12 Best Holiday Musical Guests

Categories: Holidaze, TV Party

Photo by Wally Gobetz/Flickr Commons
Watching the Saturday Night Live Christmas special last week, I was reminded how the show has revered -- and skewered -- the holiday season over the years. From Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song" to Alec Baldwin's "Schweddy Balls," the show's churned out enough holiday-themed material to keep us laughing for 12 days of Christmas, or at least "eight crazy nights."

Those December episodes have also featured some incredible music. With more than a few dozen to choose from, it was easy picking 12 SNL musical guests who made our holidays merry and bright.

MUSE, Season 35
The lineup was quite handsome this night, with James Franco as host and Brit-rockers Muse handling the musical duties. They sounded great, performing "Uprising" and "Starlight" even though their bombastic live-show lasers had been replaced by twinkling Christmas lights.

Maybe their song selections for the night -- "Solider" and "Cater 2 U" -- aren't at the top of your Destiny's Child playlist, but who cares? Bey and Co. looked so fine everyone on the stage (including Li'l Wayne, who joined on "Soldier") had to be searching frantically for mistletoe.

Back when SNL was just a chick at the peacock network and not yet a ruler of the roost, it showed how it would use music to make its legendary mark on pop culture. The first season's musical guests included Joe Cocker, Jimmy Cliff and Simon & Garfunkel.

The holiday special was a soulful one. In addition to Reeves and The Stylistics, repping Motown and Philly, respectively, Garrett Morris led the cast and guest host Candice Bergen in a spirited rendition of "Winter Wonderland."

By Christmas 1976, the show had already become a force. Season 1's musical guests were impressive, but the show's early success brought even bigger acts -- George Harrison, Brian Wilson, Santana, The Band, Chuck Berry -- to the 30 Rock stage.

Zappa at Christmas proved SNL wasn't going to trot out stars singing carols every December. He did three tunes, including a personal favorite, "I'm the Slime," which included a guest spot by the voice of SNL, Don Pardo. Only the Father of the Mothers could perform a song decrying TV on an exciting new TV show and get away with it.

What I remember best about this show is how Bill Murray scared holy hell out of us Cold War kids by announcing during the live show the Soviets had declared martial law on Poland. I wasn't sure what it meant, but seeing Nick the Lounge Singer delivering somber news was chilling.

As for the music, The Spinners did three of their biggest hits, including "I'll Be Around," and the Whiffenpoofs delivered an a cappella Christmas medley.

The white witch does white Christmas. Nicks performed "Stand Back" at the height of her solo success in 1983.

HOLE, Season 20
A Courtney Love Christmas. How amazing does that sound? I want it to be an annual holiday special, please. The juxtaposition of Yuletide wreaths and her grunge-charged performances of "Violet" and "Doll Parts" were an early Christmas present for us fans.

List continues on the next page.

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Yay! I love this piece you wrote! I've been counting down (yeah really) for Saturday so I can see JT again.  He's all kinds of talented.  SNL was funniest (to me) when it when it was full of Eddie Murphy, Joe Piscopo, Jane Curtin, Dan Ackroyd, Chevy Chase, Jim Belushi and Steve Martin.  Now that was entertainment!  i'm sure I've left a lot more people out, but this is all I could remember in my inebritated (too lazy to spell check) steate. Good stuff!  Be good friend.  Santa's watching. :)

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