23. "This Christmas," Donny HathawayAtco 6799; b-side of "Be There"
Highest chart position: #11 US (1972)
Recorded July 1970, New York, NY
At this point, it's practically the official modern R&B Christmas anthem, but when first released in 1970, it went almost completely ignored -- a typical fate for Hathaway, a criminally underappreciated soul-jazz artist whose biggest notice came on the peripheral of other, bigger successes (his duets with Roberta Flack on "Where Is The Love" and "The Closer I Get To You," his theme song for the TV show Maude, hip-hop's endless sampling of "The Ghetto," countless artists' covers of his original "A Song For You"). But since his questionable, tragic early demise in 1979, this song has become his main calling card, and it's easy to see why: not only is it the first major Christmas tune to not even attempt crossover success outside its market, it sparkles with the promise of not only the season, but of new love. ("Hang all the mistletoe / I'm gonna get to know you better.")