I was talking to my mom the other day. She was wondering about the song What Can You Get a Wookie For Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb). She was wondering who wrote it, if he ever wrote anything else, and what it must be like if that’s your biggest hit. I’ve had similar wonderings in the past. It’s hard to hear a one-hit-wonder and not think about it. But I’ve thought about it in other contexts as well.
A few years ago, part of my job was writing anti-money laundering training courses for insurance agents. Sometimes I would write a particularly good sentence or paragraph or example. The words meant exactly what I wanted them to, both connotatively and denotatively. It had a pleasing rhythm and flow. It was perfectly pitched to my audience. And I’d wonder if I had just written the best sentence/paragraph/example I would ever write, and I wasted it in an anti-money laundering course where no one would ever notice or appreciate it.
When my daughter was younger, we used to watch Sofia the First together. One feature of the show was that every episode had a musical number and they all seemed to be original songs. And they were real songs. It wasn’t just public domain melodies with different lyrics over and over again. Someone who knows a thing or two about music actually wrote a song for each episode. That was their job. When I first started watching, I felt a little bad for these songwriters in the same way I wondered if my anti-money laundering courses were wasting good prose. So, I made it a point to pay attention to the songs and I really began to appreciate them. So often, in children’s entertainment, they take the cheap and easy way. Sofia actually put some effort in, and it made my daughter very happy. I shouldn’t feel bad for them, they should be proud of themselves.
That’s the way I’ve come to look at What Can You Get a Wookie For Christmas. I looked it up, it was written by someone named Maury Yeston. It turns out he has 93 credits in the Discogs database and has won Tony awards, so Wookie wasn’t his only one. The song has brought me a lot of happiness over the years. I hope he’s proud of it.