WASHINGTON, January 3, 2017 – We’re back with the latest, newly revised edition of our top Auld Lang Syne videos to close out 2016 and launch 2017. Our revised list removes a few old favorites and replaces them with versions of this traditional New Year’s Eve song that somehow reflect the strange, and (at least for some), almost miraculous year we’ve just experienced here in the once and future U.S.A.
This year’s big story, of course, was Election 2016, a presidential sweepstake that Hillary Rodham Clinton was supposed to win in a landslide, given her laughable “you can’t take him seriously” opponent Donald J. Trump. At least that’s what almost 99 percent of media and celebrity types kept telling us.
But, to seemingly everyone’s surprise, when the dust had settled early in the morning of November 9 and when the earth had stopped shaking, it was that laughable Donald J. Trump who was left standing in the winner’s circle, while Hillary Clinton was the one who was flung unceremoniously into the dustbin of history. Who knew? (The Deplorable did, but they never said a word until the deed was done.)
As a result of this astonishing turn of events, what better time than right now to take a few minutes to reflect upon an amazing 2016 as the hours tick down to midnight, December 31? And what better way to accomplish this task than to listen to CDN’s annual Top Ten CDN selection of “Auld Lang Syne” videos?
With traditional lyrics perfected and immortalized by Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, “Auld Lang Syne,” as we have it today, fondly and yet sadly recalls the old times, old friends and old memories that are passing into legend and mythology, even as our calendar turns inexorably toward a New Year in which nothing has yet happened but in which all things are still possible.
With that in mind, here’s our 2016 take on the best and/or most unusual “Auld Lang Syne” videos available this year. You’re welcome to visit our comments area below and add your own suggestions. We might just use them in our 2016 edition.
Here we go:
- Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians (1946). This was our top video in last year’s column, but we’re switching positions this year as, sadly, fewer and fewer people even remember this version, the most famous and influential interpretation of “Auld Lang Syne” for many decades and the only one any Americans could tune into on the telly each year in the program that eventually morphed into today’s vapid and increasingly banal “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” A classic Greatest Generation Big Band, Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians celebrate January 1, 1946 in this film clip that shows them in the flesh, performing live via a radio broadcast from Times Square. 1946 was an auspicious New Year indeed. It was the first New Year since roughly 1939 that Americans, and indeed much of the world could freely celebrate without being haunted by the threat of a catastrophic world war. Somewhat similar to 2016, 1946 marked a great transition from the mass violence of World War II to a more domestic, “back to work, back to normalcy” scenario that, among other things, spawned the tidal wave of American births known collectively as the Baby Boomer generation. Who, back then, ever imagined how that generation would eventually turn out?
- Mariah Carey does “Auld Lang Syne” in 2010 video. Here’s one we discovered earlier this year that gives us the best of both worlds, the old and the new. Mariah begins her version of the song pretty traditionally, save for that constant grace-note styling she has never been able to resist. But then she takes things in a more urban pop direction and niftily transforms the tune into something entirely different. Guy Lombardo it ain’t.
- Beethoven Arrangement. One of our previous selections, we travel even farther back in history via this video to discover an interesting trifle from none other than Ludwig von himself. Yes, even the great Beethoven spent some time as a starving artist before he assumed his role as the dominant European composer of the 19th century, and hackwork by a master of his stature never sounded so good. Here’s Big B’s charming version of “Auld Lang Syne,” as sung by Sir Thomas Allen, Dame Felicity Lott and John Mark Ainsley, accompanied by a small ensemble.
- Schwinn Bell Choir. Another 2016 returnee, this is the most original riff we’ve yet discovered in our search for unusual interpretations of “Auld Lang Syne.” Although the video below seems contemporary, the musicians are all riding on old, heavy-duty Schwinn bikes that look like the one this author owned back in the day when no one had ever heard of a 10-speed. (Or could afford one.) We rode our Schwinns for miles and miles up and down the generally flat terrain of northern Ohio, completing a 50-mile bike hike to copy our Boy Scout cycling merit badge. But we certainly never performed in a Schwinn bicycle bell choir.
- Red Hot Chili Pipers. No, not a typo. Not “Peppers.” “Pipers.” Whoever these dudes are in the following clip, popular last year, they sure impart a genuine Scottish flavor to Rabbie Burns’ poem and its accompanying tune.
- Auld Lang Syne – Beach Boys cover, arranged by Brian Wilson, as sung by Josh Turner,
posted to YouTube on December 30, 2016.Now for something completely different. I stumbled on this wonderful, nostalgic, almost dreamy à cappella arrangement of this old traditional song by none other than the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson who, I think, has long been underestimated when it comes to the almost classical-music elegance of the vocal harmonies he has created since way back when. This version is traditional yet modern, sincere yet slightly edgy, and just sort of works this year as we try to remember the America most of us used to agree upon prior to the 21st century. To borrow a timeworn phrase, it’s a “kinder, gentler” “Auld Lang Syne,” and maybe we can start to head back to those times in 2017. Turner does a great job here dubbing each part of this four-part arrangement, a new addition to our Top 10 “Auld Lang Syne” versions for 2016-2017.
- Performance at the Scottish Parliament, circa 2007. This next clip, another replay from last year, is neither the most brilliant nor the best performance of “Auld Lang Syne” we’ve seen or heard. But it’s a standout for one simple reason: All the Scottish politicians in attendance in this clip, no matter what their party affiliation, are standing and singing together, at the Scottish Parliament no less. Even better, no one tries to go viral by dropping down on one knee during this New Year’s tribute. Can you imagine this happening on Capitol Hill today in the current Congress under the current administration? We asked that question in last year’s column, and the same question is just as relevant today. Let’s listen.
- Edinburgh, Hogmanay celebration, 2006. Forget Times Square. If you want to experience a really massive, city-style party that brings in the New Year with all the proper revelry, you need go no further than Edinburgh, Scotland. The national sing-along in the following video is taken from the Jan. 1, 2009, celebration of Hogmanay. Hogmanay—which we’re glad we don’t have to try to pronounce—is to New Year’s Day in Scotland something like Mardi Gras is to New Orleans in that eager Scots don’t limit the New Year’s festivities to Dec. 31-Jan. 1. Instead, they carry on at some length leading up to and including that magical New Year’s date. We’ll help them out this year by downing a wee dram (or two) of our favorite Islay single malt Scotch. Join us in this reprise from last year’s column. When the Scots want to celebrate, they damn well know how to do it.
- Recording by Scottish folk group “The Cast.” The YouTube info box for the following clip tells us it’s sung by “‘The Cast (Mairi Campbell, David Francis)’” in a “performance recorded at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2008.” We don’t exactly know how important it is, but, no doubt, the folks involved most certainly do. This striking version is a bit different in both melody and approach, employing earlier language and a slightly different, more authentic version of the ancient tune, both of which combine to give us a sadder and more reflective performance than those we’re accustomed to hearing in the U.S.
- Dougie MacLean and The Chive remember celebrities we lost in 2016. Just posted to YouTube on December 29, 2016, this video suddenly became our surprise winner for 2016-2017’s best version of “Auld Lang Syne,” making us a trifle late on posting this column. This version, courtesy of The Chive, is a lovely, slow, acoustic arrangement of the old tune. Soloist/guitarist Dougie MacLean does us an extra favor here by singing it with Burns’ original Scottish lyrics which, in turn, are translated via subtitles in the video. This roughly 5 minute clip scrolls through the names and faces of the almost mind-boggling number of famous personalities we lost this year, right down to the final two, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds who passed away just days ago. During this poignant video and musical clip, we see some of the remaining few Greatest Generation celebrities slip by. Ditto an upsetting number of Boomer celebs who, of course, are next up in that neverending queue winding down the lonely road from the light-filled tunnel to the Pearly Gates. If you think (or know) that you’ve been wasting your life on petty or meaningless stuff up to now, this surprisingly moving video might serve as a reminder that it’s not too late… you can still begin to make a difference in 2017 and beyond. On that note, from yours truly and from all our friends here at CDN, Happy New Year! For Auld Lang Syne….