10 Best Rock Covers of Classic Christmas Songs

By Katrina Nattress

November 2, 2018

Rock & roll and Christmas music don't necessarily go hand in hand, but throughout the years some of the biggest names in rock (both classic and contemporary) have put their mark on traditional Christmas songs. And the result would make any fan of the genre get into the Yuletide spirit, even if just for a few fleeting minutes. From Bruce Springsteen to The Shins and Paul McCartney to Coldplay, these are the best rock covers of classic Christmas songs.

Bruce Springsteen - "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town"

This classic Christmas tune was originally written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie, and was first sung on Eddie Cantor's radio show in 1934. In the decades that have followed, names like Frank Sinatra, The Jackson 5, and even Mariah Carey have covered the iconic song, but we're partial to Bruce Springsteen's 1975 version. If you're lucky enough to see The Boss perform around the holidays, you just might see this one live — he's been known to include it in his sets.

Paul McCartney - “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)”

We all know and love Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime," but just a few years ago Macca released a cover of "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" and it's everything you'd want it to be. His take on the seasonal standard is just as warm and cozy as the 1946 original. It's like Paul's drinking hot buttered rum by the fireplace right there with you.

Rufus Wainwright & Sharon Van Etten - “Baby It’s Cold Outside”

We'll admit this song didn't age well — it was a different time when Frank Loesser wrote and recorded the call and response tune back in 1944 — but it's so catchy, and Rufus Wainwright and Sharon Van Etten flawlessly encompass the original's jazzy spirit in their 2012 cover.

Coldplay - “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

The '40s were a great time for Christmas standards. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was first introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 musical, Meet Me in St. Louis. Nearly 60 years later, Coldplay included the Yuletide song on their 2001 two-track EP, Mince Spies. Backed by piano, Chris Martin's voice is so comforting you may actually believe your troubles are far away.

The Shins - “Wonderful Christmastime”

We couldn't include Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" since he wrote the song, but we can include The Shins' 2012 cover of it! The peppy song is featured on the Holidays Rule compilation, which also includes Macca's cover of "The Christmas Song." 

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers w/ Stevie Nicks - “Silent Night”

"Silent Night" is one of the most famous Christmas carols and has been sung during the holidays since the early 19th century. During the 2000 TV special, A Very Special Christmas, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers put a twangy twist on the seasonal staple, with Stevie Nicks providing her iconic vocals while Petty strums his acoustic guitar.

Keith Richards - “Run Rudolph Run”

In 1958, Chuck Berry added a new bluesy track to the Christmas canon in "Run Rudolph Run." The song has been covered by artists ranging from the Grateful Dead to Kelly Clarkson, but we love Keith Richards' gritty 1978 single.

David Bowie & Bing Crosby - “Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth”

In 1977, Bing Crosby filmed Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas with an array of special guests, including David Bowie. Together, they sang a bone-chilling medley of "Little Drummer Boy" and "Peace on Earth." Sadly, Crosby didn't get to see his TV special air. He passed away just five weeks after filming.

John Mellencamp - “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”

Though the most famous version of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" came from The Jackson 5 on their 1970 Christmas album, it was originally recorded nearly 20 years earlier by 13-year-old Jimmy Boyd. In 1987, John Mellencamp gave it the rock treatment as his contribution to the A Very Special Christmas benefit album.

Hall & Oates - “Jingle Bell Rock”

In 1957, Bobby Helms jumpstarted Christmas in the rock world with the aptly titled "Jingle Bell Rock." The bluesy track has become a Christmas classic, and in 1983 Hall & Oates recorded their own version as a non-album single. Over 20 years later, a new recording of the song landed on their Home For Christmas holiday album. 

For more rockin' holiday jams, tune into the iHeartChristmas rock playlist.

Photo: Getty Images

Bruce SpringsteenThe ShinsPaul McCartneyColdplayDavid BowieDaryl Hall & John OatesJohn MellencampRufus WainwrightStevie Nicks & Tom PettyKeith Richardson
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