Paul Simon’s wonderful new song “Getting Ready For Christmas Day” is based on and samples a sermon by Reverend J.M. Gates an Atlanta preacher who was born in the late 1885. When he dies in 1945, Gates had a successful recording career. According to Dust To Digital Gates’s “Getting Ready” was a variation on some previous sermons.
It was the eighth sermon he had recorded on a Christmas theme. All of them were variants on the first two, “Death Might Be Your Santa Claus” and “Where Will You Be Christmas Day?” This recording derives mostly from the second theme but it overlaps with the first in its suggestions of death, violence, and the jailhouse. Blues artists sang about Christmas and Santa Claus, and their themes were often equally grim and melancholy. For those on the bottom, Christmas was a reminder of how far down they were.
Here’s a recording of Gates’ and right below, the video for Simon’s song (it’s exquisitely shot) and his explanation of the song.