Columns Music

Broad Street Beat: Congrats to Augusta native Brenda Lee

(Disclaimer: Columns may contain opinion)

When I heard that Brenda Lee’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree hit No. 1 Tuesday, my first thought wasn’t the iconic Christmas song recorded by a 13-year-old Augusta girl in 1958, it was Don Rhodes,

Don Rhodes with Brenda Lee in 1999. Photo courtesy Linda Humphreys

If Don was still alive, I could almost guarantee he would’ve taken the chance to write about the former Brenda Mae Tarpley, who turns 79 on Dec. 11 in his Ramblin’s Roads column at Augusta Good News

On Dec. 5, Billboard reported that Lee’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree made it to the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time in its 65-year history.

Don had written about Lee many times in his long-running Ramblin’ Rhodes’ column with The Augusta Chronicle. Not only did he write about her, but she wrote the foreword in his book Entertainment in Augusta and the CSRA which was published in 2004. In it, she called Don “a dear friend” and wrote “I have great respect for his work and for his support and love of our entertainment industry.”

And knowing Don, I’m sure he would’ve been one of the first people on the phone to congratulate her. That’s the way Don was. Congrats, Ms. Lee!

Amy Grant at the Miller Theater May 25, 2022. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

Brenda Lee isn’t Augusta’s only tie to Christmas music.

If you want to have a Garden City-themed playlist at your next holiday gathering, here are a few suggestions.

 You can’t turn on a radio at Christmas without hearing at least one song by Amy Grant who was born in Augusta in 1960.

 Grant has released five Christmas albums over the years and sung songs such as Sleigh Ride, Grown Up Christmas List and Breath of Heaven.

If your taste leans to a funky sound during the holidays, James Brown and Sharon Jones both recorded holiday music.

The Godfather of Soul released James Brown’s Funky Christmas in 1968, featuring songs such as Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto, Merry Christmas Baby and Soulful Christmas.

Sharon Jones left us with a fun holiday recording in 2015.

Called It’s a Holiday Soul Party, it features songs such as Big Bulbs and 8 Days of Hanukkah.

Legendary opera singer Jessye Norman also recorded sounds of the season including The Jessye Norman Collection: A Christmas Collection in 2005 and Christmastide in 1987.

 Also, Lady A, whose members include Lakeside High School graduates Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, released On This Winter’s Night in 2012.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News and Inspiring: Women of Augusta, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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