My Christmas Song of the Day for December 23 is relatively little known, but it’s truly moving, and it works on more than one level.
As I was going through my Christmas CD collection, I found a compilation that I had bought at a Ralph Lauren outlet store many years ago. Among the usual holiday suspects was a song called “Just in Time for Christmas,” from 1994, performed and co-written by New York cabaret singer Nancy LaMott. Once I listened to it, I decided I had to share it.
LaMott (1951-1995) had two constants that ran throughout her short life: a beautiful voice, and recurring illnesses that kept her from fulfilling her full potential. At the age of 17, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a bowel and immune system disorder that would flare up just as she was getting breaks.
At the age of 19, she moved to San Francisco from her home state of Michigan. In between hospital stays, she started to make a name for herself, and thanks to a friend, she relocated to New York. She made some good friends who stood by her, but every time she was about to get a big break, her illness would return, and she’d be back to the hospital.
In 1989, she met David Friedman, a composer and conductor, who thought that LaMott should be doing more than singing in clubs; she should be making recordings. So he signed her to his new Midder Music label and started to get the word out. It didn’t take long for LaMott to garner a cult following in New York, but she continued to have health problems. Finally, she got an ileostomy, which changed her life for the better.
By 1994, LaMott seemed to be on her way at last. She had sung for President and Mrs. Clinton at the White House; she had appeared on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee; and her following continued to grow. That fall, her Christmas CD, of which “Just in Time for Christmas” is the title song, sold approximately 5,000 copies – not bad for a poorly distributed CD on an independent label. But in March 1995, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She died before the end of the year.
Those who remember LaMott from her days in New York remember her fondly, but most of the rest of the country has forgotten her.
As I mentioned, “Just in Time for Christmas” can be seen in more than one way. LaMott is disillusioned by the holiday season until a Christmas miracle occurs. It is not explicit what this miracle is; on the surface, it can be seen as the love of her life has finally arrived, but on another level, the song can be about the Christmas miracle that took place in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago, and her discovery of its power. Either way, it’s a wonderful song that deserves greater recognition. Here’s “Just in Time for Christmas.”