“Early Days: Best of Led Zeppelin Volume One,” and “Latter Days: Best of Led Zeppelin Volume Two,” represented arguably the most thoughtful Christmas gift I’ve ever received (so far). (Photo by Sean Yoes)

By Sean Yoes
AFRO Senior Reporter
syoes@afro.com

I’ve got to tell my “Best Christmas” story in two parts.

I’m pretty sure I was 10 years old, so it was 1975, and a great time to be alive, at least from my perspective as a kid growing up in the 70s. We stayed outside during the summer until the sun went down; rode bikes without helmets; drank tap water straight from the faucet; and got our butts beat with a belt, as music by Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Earth, Wind & Fire and Curtis Mayfield played in the background. That was life for a kid growing up in the 70s. And like the 70s, Christmas 1975 was way over the top!

On Christmas morning, my beloved grandmother Beatrice Yoes instructed me and my sister Jodi to enter her house from the backyard, through the basement. Obviously, we thought this was odd, but it was Christmas morning, so we were down for whatever. But, once we emerged from the basement and walked through the kitchen to the entrance of the living room to our astonishment we saw so many toys, appliances (including an enormous black and white television!) gizmos and clothes. There was no path for us to walk! I think we almost passed out from excitement.

However, before we dug into our embarrassment of Christmas riches, I turned to my grandmother and simply said, thank you. At that moment, my favorite Christmas moment, it was clear to me that this woman had sacrificed a great deal to make this a great Christmas for me and my sister because she loved us so much. I think it was the first time in my young life that I experienced pure, unadulterated gratitude. I have not ever forgotten that feeling. I still say “thank you” a lot.

Now, as far as my favorite Christmas gift, specifically, I have to fast forward more than 30 years later from that magnificent Christmas 1975.

It was Christmas 2006, and I was at the home of the woman I was dating at the time. She was very generous and very thoughtful (honestly, she got some great gifts from me, too!). So, it was a good Christmas! However, one of the gifts she gave caused me to audibly gasp when I opened the package. It was a compilation of music from the greatest Rock and Roll band of all-time (bar nobody!) Led Zeppelin. 

“Early Days: Best of Led Zeppelin Volume One,” and “Latter Days: Best of Led Zeppelin Volume Two,” represented arguably the most thoughtful Christmas gift I’ve ever received (so far). Alluding back to my greatest Christmas moment, as a kid growing up in the 70s, perhaps the greatest gift I received on a daily basis was the gift of music. 

Although my mother and father weren’t together anymore, I was blessed to hear all types of incredible music from the greatest era in the history of American music at both their homes. My dad played Stevie Wonder and other iconic Black music gods, but he also played a lot of Rock & Roll and Funk music too. He listened to artists like the Beatles, Grand Funk Railroad, Blood, Sweat and Tears and Buddy Miles, among others. 

Artists like Marvin Gaye, Jerry Butler, Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, featuring Theodore Pendergrass, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan and EWF, constantly saturated the air at my mother’s house. But, there was also Freddie Cole, Nancy Wilson and Anthony Dominick Benedetto, aka, Tony Bennett. The point is, great music is a gift from my mother and my father, it’s precious to me. Great music is my sanity. It’s in my DNA. My friend recognized this essential truth about me and she honored it. I was very grateful and that moment still makes me happy.

My all-time greatest Christmas gifts (besides the Christ himself) are the gift of music and the gift of gratitude. And despite all 2020 has dealt us, I am indeed grateful.

 

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor