Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer

Honestly, I don't think I heard this song once last December, but I was probably five or six when it hit big on the seasonal Top 40 radio stations, just the right age to find the lyrics utterly hilarious. It's not the lyrics that stick with me now though. Strangely, it's the melody. For the past year, I've been taking country harmony singing classes at Jalopy Theater and School of Music in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Val Mindel teaches us to sing in tight stacks, Louvin Brothers-style. I love the sound of those close harmonies, when my voice locks in with the singers around me. I love taking the lead on a ballad. Country songs are so often about lost love, heartache, wind whispering over graves and through pines, fateful trips to bodies of water. My voice is well suited to such modest mournfulness.

But here's the thing: With only a lyrics sheet and maybe simple chord charts, I often forget the melodies of these songs. And when I'm trying to figure them out at home, my versions of the songs inevitably devolve into Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, specifically the lead-in to the chorus. So I'm trying to remember a Carter Family song:

Would you let her part us darling / Would you truly turn away / Would it make your heart ache darling....

And then my brain spits out:

Should we open up her gifts or send them back? [beat] Grandma got run over by a....

It's something about that line, something about the cadence and the melody and the chord setup that just slides right into every country or folk song. And my tearful ballad is marred by jingle bells.