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Robert Earl Keen's 'Merry Christmas From the Family'

December 24, 2012|By Randy Lewis
  • Robert Earl Keen celebrates a dysfunctional gathering of relatives in "Merry Christmas From the Family."
Robert Earl Keen celebrates a dysfunctional gathering of relatives in… (Los Angeles Times )

In assembling a list of several of the saddest holiday songs ever recorded for Calendar, I preemptively noted that “We can’t claim these are definitively the saddest, because there are so many more available to choose from.”

Sure enough, readers quickly started citing their own depressive/dysfunctional/downcast holiday favorites that I hadn’t singled out: Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper,” Randy Newman’s “Snow,” the Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” the Youngsters’ “Christmas in Jail,” John Denver’s “Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)” and “Christmas for Cowboys,”  to name a few.

One more that’s always delighted me comes from Texas troubadour Robert Earl Keen, whose “Merry Christmas From the Family” opens with the line “Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk at our Christmas party,” letting us know immediately this may well be the  holiday gathering furthest removed from the land of Norman Rockwell and Currier & Ives.

So with just a few hours left before Santa’s arrival, Pop & Hiss will share Keen’s twisted welcoming of the various members of his his far-flung tribe:

Brother Ken brought his kids with him
The three from his first wife, Lynn
And the two identical twins from his second wife, Mary Nell
Of course he brought his new wife, Kay
Who talks all about AA
Chain smoking while the stereo plays Noel, Noel
The First Noel

Clearly, I’m not alone in my perverse appreciation for Keen’s song: The official video has received nearly 1.9 million YouTube views. Check it out here:

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Follow Randy Lewis on Twitter: @RandyLewis2 

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