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Hee-haw, not ho ho, for ‘Dominick the Donkey’

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Updated: January 18, 2013 6:07AM



This song will shatter the most silent of nights.

One of the most requested tracks on the Holiday Lite, “Dominick the Donkey,” tells the story of a lively, sure-footed beast of burden who helps Santa navigate the Italian hillside that is — chingedy ching! — too treacherous for reindeer.

Recorded by Lou Monte in 1960, the song features more cheese than Nonna’s lasagna and the ultimate obnoxious earworm, a manic “hee-haw, hee-haw” in the refrain.

Santa’s gift-laden donkey isn’t part of a traditional Italian Christmas, said Dominic DiFrisco, president emeritus of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans and Chicago’s watchdog against Italian stereotyping. DiFrisco said his father called him “Dominic the Donkey” if he didn’t bring home straight As on his report cards, but he still likes the song.

“Traveling by donkey was universal in southern Italy, as it was in Greece,” DiFrisco said. “[Monte’s] playing easy with history, but it’s a cute song and Lou Monte was at that time one of the hottest singers in America.”

DiFrisco described Dominick as a “lovable, not threatening animal” that, like many Italian donkeys, was part of the peasant household.

“He was essential to their work,” DiFrisco said.

The song, believed to have been financed by the Gambino crime family, rose to No. 2 between Dec. 19-25, 2011, on the British iTunes chart, part of a holiday season campaign by a British DJ.

While DiFrisco called “Dominick the Donkey” part of the “spirit of Christmas,” it wouldn’t be his top holiday radio request.

“We’ve got beautiful Italian Christmas music,” he said. “ ‘Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle’ — that would be fantastic.”



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