The Christmas songs of the ’80s were a little less sugary and a little more rockin’ than the Christmas songs of today. This list is dedicated to the top 20 80’s Christmas songs. Some are by artists you would expect to see on a Christmas compilation, but others may surprise you with their inclusion here. Enjoy!
1. LAST CHRISTMAS WHAM!
The song that put 80s Christmas songs on the map. Wham! was George Michael’s first time singing lead for Wham!, and this would be the song that helped make him a star. Last Christmas has since become a holiday standard that is still requested at radio stations around the world.
Last Christmas came out on the UK’s biggest-selling Christmas album of all time, Make it Big. George Michael wrote the song for his first love. He wasn’t going to give the song away as a single but changed his mind after hearing Elton John’s Your Song. “People will buy it because of me,” said Michael.
2. CHRISTMAS IN HOLLIS ACDC
Christmas in Hollis is a song by hip hop duo Run-D.M.C., which was released as the first single from their fourth studio album, “Tougher Than Leather.” The song, which was written by the group’s members Run, D.M.C., and Jam Master Jay, contains samples of the song “Frosty,” which was written by Steve Nelson and Walter Egan. This single is one of the most upbeat songs on this list and is not one you want to miss.
3. DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR? WHITNEY HOUSTON
Whitney Houston’s version of this Christmas standard was not as big a hit as her other 80s holiday tune, “One Moment in Time,” but it still made its way to number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is one of the only two songs listed here that feature a rapper.
Do you hear what I hear ? is a song by iconic gospel singer Johnny Mathis. The song is an uptempo holiday classic that has stood the test of time and still gets played on the radio every year.
4. WONDERFUL CHRISTMASTIME PAUL MCCARTNEY
One of the few 80s Christmas songs that can be sung by a male and female together without sounding completely awkward. This song is an 80s classic and has been covered by many different artists, such as Destiny’s Child and Glee (and I’m sure there are plenty more out there).
5. MERRY, MERRY CHRISTMAS, NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
This song is one of the many collaborations between NKOTB and Boyz II Men, but it’s the only holiday one. This song is sung from the point of view of someone who doesn’t want to be alone on Christmas but would rather spend it with their lover.
6. SLEIGH RIDE AIR SUPPLY
This Air Supply song was a remake of the same-titled song made famous by The Ronettes in 1964. This version reached number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is one of many songs that remind us how lonely it can be at Christmas time when you’re not with your family or someone special.
7. HAZY SHADE OF WINTER THE BANGLES
Hazy Shade of Winter is a song by American new wave band The Bangles. It was released on the group’s 1986 album “Different Light.” This dark and moody track isn’t your average Christmas song, but it still makes its way onto this list as one of the best.
8. MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE SHAKIN STEVENS
This song was originally recorded by Slade in 1984, but this cover version was the one that made it to number 9 on the Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary chart. This Christmas classic has become a must-hear at festive celebrations around the world.
9. 2000 MILES THE PRETENDERS
2000 Miles is a song by rock band The Pretenders. It was an A-side single from the group’s 1984 album “Learning to Crawl” and was written as a Christmas request for Chrissie Hynde’s friends and family in England.
10. HARD CANDY CHRISTMAS DOLLY PARTON
Dolly Parton’s Hard Candy Christmas has become one of the most covered songs in the country music world. This touching ballad is more about beauty than it is sadness and shows that there truly are people out there who enjoy spending time with their loved ones at Christmas.
11. MARY’S BOY CHILD/OH MY LORD BONEY M.
This song was originally released in 1976, but it didn’t become a Christmas hit until 1984. Boney M’s version is by far the most well-known and has been covered countless times since then. Also, Boney M. released a Christmas album in 1984 called “Christmas Album.”
12. PEACE IN OUR TIME EDDIE MONEY
This song by Eddie Money is more of a tribute to the fighting men and women who are fighting for our freedom. This single was released at the end of 1989, right before Operation Desert Shield began, but it managed to make its way onto this list as one of the best songs out there.
13. FAIRYTALE OF NEW YORK THE POGUES AND KIRSTY MACCOLL
This classic is not only one of the best Christmas songs but one of the top songs that deal with loneliness. The song is sung from the point of view of someone who has been left alone to spend Christmas on their own and how much it’s getting them down. Also, a note for a good laugh: this song almost didn’t get released due to the countless times the word “f**k” was used.
Another fact about the song is that Kirsty MacColl’s vocals weren’t recorded until a week before the song was released, as she had been involved in a fatal boating accident a month earlier.
Hollywood star Richard Gere claimed that Fairytale of New York saved his life following a suicide attempt. The actor, who was struggling with depression at the time, admitted he lay down on subway tracks intending to take his life but changed his mind after listening to the track, which was played by late DJ Mark Radcliffe on BBC Radio 2. Richard Gere said: “I was in a very bad place… but when I heard it, it pulled me out of where I was.”
Richard Gere even contacted the song’s writers Shane MacGowan and Jem Finer in 2009 to thank them for saving his life.
14. THANK GOD IT’S CHRISTMAS QUEEN
This rock anthem is sung from the point of view of someone who can’t wait for Christmas so that they can get away from their depression. Also, this song was written by Freddie Mercury after he had spent the night before in a Soho doorway because he didn’t have anywhere else to go.
Another fact is that this song was banned by the BBC for being “unsuitable” to be broadcast during the day.
15. DO THEY KNOW ITS CHRISTMAS BAND-AID
This song is a charity single that was released in 1984 in order to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. It’s sung by some of the biggest names in 1980s music, including Bono from U2 and George Michael.
The song raised £8 million for those affected by famine in Ethiopia and is still the number one selling single of all time in the UK.
16. THE POWER OF LOVE FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD
This song was originally released in 1984, but it didn’t make it onto this list as one of the best songs until its re-release in 1993. This beautiful and emotional song deals with someone who has lost a loved one and is struggling to deal with life without them.
17. SANTA BABY MADONNA
I know this song was released in 1987, but it’s become one of the most popular Christmas songs out there. It’s sung from the point of view of someone who is fed up with spending every Christmas single and would rather have a man for once.
Madonna has released several Christmas songs since then, most notably “Last Christmas” in 2010.
18. PUT A LITTLE LOVE IN YOUR HEART AL GREEN, ANNIE LENNOX
This song was originally released in 1979, but it didn’t become a hit until its re-release in 1988. This beautiful ballad is about the singer telling everyone to put aside their differences and try to love one another instead of fighting.
19. PEACE ON EARTH/LITTLE DRUMMER BOY BING CROSBY, DAVID BOWIE
This song is a duet between Bing Crosby and David Bowie, and it’s about two people who see each other as enemies but are trying to change that. This single was recorded in 1977 as a charity record for UNICEF, but it was released in 1982.
20. DRIVING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS CHRIS REA
This song is sung from the point of view of someone who is driving home for Christmas. Along the way, they get stuck in traffic and miss their ferry, but they take it all in stride and carry on enjoying what’s left of their journey.
So that’s my list for the 20 best Christmas songs of the ’80s. It’s not definitive by any means, but I think it does a pretty good job at representing some of the best Christmas songs out there today. Thanks for reading this article, and have a happy holiday season!