Outside of Beyoncé’s, Michelle’s, and Kelly’s families, it’s hard to imagine anyone being more excited about the new Destiny’s Child Christmas album than 70-something widow Audrey Gillespie.
For Audrey, Santa is real, and as the closest living relative of songwriter James Haven Gillespie, she has the royalty checks to prove it. Gillespie, Audrey’s father-in-law, sat down one day in 1934 and penned the lyrics for ”Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” the latest, stankiest version of which appears on Destiny’s 8 Days of Christmas. ”You’ve heard of this new singing group?” Audrey asks. ”It’s always good to hear another artist do it.” We bet. A hit holiday song can generate ”literally millions of dollars,” says ASCAP exec VP Todd Brabec.
In Audrey’s case, the income from recordings of ”Santa”—by Bruce Springsteen, Louis Armstrong, and the Jackson 5, to name a few—have paid for her grandkids’ education and allowed her to become a philanthropist (Kentucky’s Centre College now boasts an Audrey Gillespie Recital Hall).
Novelist Nick Hornby devised a similar scenario, with a lot less fairy dust, in his 1998 book About a Boy (a film adaptation with Hugh Grant is due next year). Its hero, Will Freeman, has never had to work because his father wrote the (fictional) novelty hit ”Santa’s Super Sleigh,” but Hornby writes: ”Will hated Christmas…people knocked on his door, singing the song he hated more than any song in the world.”
Will’s real counterparts, however, not only love Christmas, they adore songs others might want to toss in with the Yule log. Jerry Gardner is crazy about ”All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth,” written by his (still-living) dad, Don, in the ’40s. Says Jerry: ”What a way to go through life, contributing something to American culture.” And to the Gardners: Jerry and his two brothers expect to inherit a ”big amount of money” someday.
So parents who want to give kids a lasting gift should skip the Xbox and get to work on a new Xmas standard. ”Osama Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” anyone?