Away in a Manger
Away in a Manger
is often the first carol that children are taught. It was
originally published in 1885. The publication of Away in a
Manger was in a Lutheran Sunday school book and this created
the misconception that the lyrics were actually written by
Martin Luther himself. The author is unknown.
The music was composed by
Kirkpatrick in 1895.
Bagdasarian was a
novelty writer in a non-novelty world. Making a living as a
quirky songwriter during the McCarthy era didn't pay regularly,
but Ross was bent on following his own twisted dream. He had one
major triumph - He had written the hit, "Come Onna my House"
for Rosemary Clooney in 1951. But mostly his recording
career up to that point was "cheesy instrumentals" as he
described them and some weird "drunk at a bar yacking over
stupid piano riffs."
He was remanded to the other side of the
recording booth as a recording engineer.
Bagdasarian loved the dials and buttons and little gauges and
getting a kick out of playing with the technology of
Now, back in Ross's day, the one major evil to be
avoided at all costs was recording outside of a non-standard
speed. The drag of a dirty capstan head or an extra revolution
per second due to a power surge would leave a music recording
worthless, changed in speed,
key, and register.
It became a
waste of tape, unusable.
But, that being said, it sure sounded
silly. Naturally, Ross had to play with it.
By deliberately recording on the slowest speed possible on his
reel-to-reel, he found he could sing normally, and sound like a
freak on helium if he sped the recording to normal speed on
playback. Using this novelty voice as the background singers for
the chorus, Bagdasarian recorded 'Witchdoctor,' and hit
the top of the charts in 1958.."Ooo,
eee, ooo ah ah ting tang. Walla walla, bing bang!"
Ross scattered to find a means of
extending his 15 minutes of fame, and, to his great credit he
managed to do so within the very same year. He created the
personas of three obnoxious drunks who sang harmony, sped the
tape up, and voila, the chipmunks were born. Bagdasarian, at
normal speed, played the hapless manager of the Chipmunks, the
fictional David Seville. The chipmunks (Alvin, Simon and
Theodore) were named after the two heads of Liberty Records,
Al Bennett and Si Warnoker, and
engineer Ted Keep.
'The Chipmunk Song', released for the Christmas
season of 1958, sold 5 million copies that year, and it got two
Grammys in 1958, "Best Comedy Performance"
and "Best Recording
It lead to a weekly television show and numerous albums still
selling to this day.
Over 50 years later, it continues to delight a new generation of
young fans with "The Chipmunks Go To The Movies" in 2007.
The Chipmunks' album "Undeniable" was released the
following year. Its 2009 sequel, "Alvin and the Chipmunks:
The Squeakquel," grossed $443,140,005 worldwide.
The project has earned five Grammy awards, an American Music
Award, a Golden Reel Award, and three Kids' Choice Awards, and
has been nominated for three Emmys.
A third film installment, "Alvin and the Chipmunks:
Chipwrecked," was released in theaters in 2011. And a fourth
installment, titled "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip"
is due out for Christmas, 2015.
A CGI-animated TV series revival, titled "ALVINNN!!! and the
Chipmunks", premiered on Nickelodeon on August 3, 2015.
See Alvin and The Chipmunks
singing "The Chipmunk Song, Christmas Don't Be Late)
The Christmas Song
Christmas Song" was written by a native Chicagoan and made
famous by a singer/songwriter who grew up in Chicago. The writer
was Mel Torme, also known as "The Velvet Fog."
singer was Nat King Cole.
Written in 1946 on one of the hottest July days on record in
Los Angeles, Mel and his writing partner, Robert Wells, were
assigned to write title songs for two movies, ironically neither
of which were holiday themed. Wells was trying to fight off the
unbearable heat by writing down everything he could think of
from his childhood winters in New England.
Mel saw the notes Wells had written on a pad of paper - "Chestnuts
roasting...Jack Frost nipping...Yuletide carols...Folks dressed
up like Eskimos" and saw lyrics to a song. Wells dismissed the
notion that it was a song and suggested that they focus on the
task at hand - writing the music for the movies. Mel insisted
they should continue with what Wells had started. Forty minutes
later, "The Christmas Song" was complete.
Mel then took the song across the city to his friend Nat King
Cole's house. Nat immediately loved it and sensing a hit, he
asked Mel if he could record it before Mel offered the song to
anyone else. Within a week, Nat had gone to the studio and
recorded it. Released October 1946, the song stayed in the top
ten for two months, then hit the charts again in 1947,
1950, and 1954.
Now considered a holiday classic,
"The Christmas Song"
was significant at the time because it was the first holiday
standard that was recorded and introduced by an African
Although it has been recorded by more than a hundred other artists,
including Torme himself, the song will be forever linked to the
voice of Cole. In much the same way that the holiday season
isn't complete without hearing Bing Crosby's version of "White Christmas," millions feel the same way about
"The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole.
Go to "The Christmas Song Page
for more and to hear Nat's version
along with a new one from
Deck The Halls
The music to Deck the
Halls is believed to be Welsh in origin and was reputed to have
come from a tune called "Nos Galan" dating back to the
In the eighteenth century Mozart used
the tune to Deck the Halls for a violin and piano duet.
J.P. McCaskey is sometimes credited with the lyrics but he
only edited the Franklin Square Song Collection in which the
lyrics were first published.
The first publication date of
Deck the Halls is 1881. The author is unknown but the words
are said to originate in America.
What I Hear
Although the names of Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne
may not be familiar,
the pair had a string of successful songs in late '50s and early
with Regney writing the music and Shayne the lyrics. They
include "Rain, Rain, Go Away," recorded by Bobby
Vinton, and "Dominque" by The Singing Nun.
Shayne also had several hits writing with others like
"Goodbye Cruel World," by Bobby Darin, "The Men in
My Little Girl's Life," by Mike Douglas and
"Almost There," by Andy Williams.
Their masterpiece, however, is
"Do You Hear What I Hear?"
Regney (1922-2002) was a Frenchman trained as a classical
composer who was drafted into the German army in World War II.
He deserted and joined the French Resistance. After the war
ended, he joined the French Overseas Radio Service and worked
out of French Indochina until moving to Manhattan in 1952.
Regney met Gloria Shayne while she was working as a
pianist in a hotel dining room and married her a month later.
Regney and Shayne wrote "Do You Hear What I Hear" in 1962
during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Regney drew the image of Jesus
as a newborn lamb from Matthew 2:9 and 2:11 and took his lyrics
to his wife to set in the reverse of their usual practice. But
while it is often taken for a Christmas carol, for Regney and
Shayne "Do You Hear What I Hear" is a hymn to peace by a
man who had experienced the horrors of war. "I am amazed that
people can think they know the song," Regney later said, "and
not know it was a prayer for peace." Although the song has been
recorded by Bing Crosby, Perry Como and over 120 others,
Regney and Shayne's favorite recording was Robert Goulet's
1963 recording for its dramatic delivery and his climatic
"Pray for peace,
Many people mistakenly assume this Christmas classic has been
around for years and that it is of European origin. But it was
written in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis as a powerful
plea for peace
The song's message of peace is as desperately needed today as it
See Robert Goulet's version of
"Do You Hear What I Hear"
Frosty The Snowman
Imitation is the
sincerest form of capitalizing on someone else's idea. So it
went with the writing duo of Jack Nelson and Steve
Rollins in 1949, as Gene Autry's performance of
John Marks' "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer"
million copies in its first season. Three things came to mind:
1) We could write something that stupid.
2) Those guys are making a fortune.
3) We want money, too.
Ipso facto, "Frosty."
Over the course of the winter, the pair had ascribed
anthropomorphic qualities to any number of holiday trappings
before they finally came across the concept of the irrepressible
They tin-pan alleyed a catchy tune from it, and before
summer was warm they found themselves at the doorstep of Mr.
Autry, promising him they had 'the next big thing' for the
Christmas to come. Autry was an easy sale; he was hoping for a
chance to follow up on last year's triumph, and snatched it up
Somehow, it worked. It was another hit - not a Rudolph by a long
shot, but it did manage to burrow down into the public
consciousness enough that Frosty joined the pantheon of
Nelson and Rollins sold Autry another song at
the same time - just in case.
And that's how the Easter ballad "Here
comes Peter Cottontail" was born.
A few of the more popular versions of the song that gets regular
airplay each holiday season are from 1963 by The Ronnettes
and by Jimmy Durante from the 1969 animated Christmas
Go to our "Rudolph and Frosty"
for more and to see Gene Autry and
The Ronnette's versions
This is a traditional English carol dating back to the 16th or
17th century. It was first published in England in 1833, when it
appeared in Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern, a
collection of seasonal carols gathered by William B. Sandys.
Ancient and Modern also marked the first publication of "The
First Noel," "I Saw Three Ships" and other great carols. The
arrangement generally used for this carol today first appeared
in the 1871 collection, Christmas Carols New and Old by
Sir John Stainer and the Reverend H.R. Bramley.
Apart From "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen," their
compilation also included Stainer's arrangements of what were to
become the standard versions of "Good King Wenceslas," and
"What Child Is This?" When the character Scrooge
in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol heard this
cheerful carol, he grabbed a ruler and made the singer flee in
Bing Crosby recorded the classic on June 8, 1942 with
John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra and Max Terr's Mixed
Chorus. It was included on his Merry Christmas album
of gramophone records released in 1945 on Decca Records. The
collection consisted of ten songs on five 78 records, all of
which had been previously released. Each one had a holiday theme
with the exception of "Danny Boy." Prior to the
long-playing album era, such assemblies were not common for
The album itself has sold over 15 million copies, and is the
best-selling Christmas album of all-time.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the familiar Christmas
carol is the confusion surrounding the punctuation of its title.
The song, which originated in England in the sixteenth or
seventeenth century, properly "God Rest You Merry,
Gentlemen," "God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen," "God Rest You Merry
Gentlemen," or some other permutation? Journalist/music
critic Harold Schonberg devoted an entire article to the
subject in 1971, tracing the work's history through a myriad of
nineteenth-century editions. Citing an 1893 reprint (which
itself might have introduced an error) of the earliest known
source of the words, a broadsheet in the Roxburghe Collection of
the British Museum, Schonberg determined that the original was
"God Rest You,
~ Handel's 'Messiah
The creation of Handel's
actually induced by George Frederick Handel's librettist,
Charles Jennens. Jennens expressed in a letter to his
friend that he wanted to create a Scriptural anthology set to
music by Handel. Jennens' desire quickly turned into reality
when Handel composed the entire work in only twenty-four days.
Jennens wished for a London debut in the days leading to Easter,
however, a doubtful Handel anticipated such a wish would not be
granted. A year after the work was completed, Handel received an
invitation to perform his music in Dublin to which he joyously
In his book,
Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers, Patrick
Kavanaugh tells how Handel barely ate during the 24 days he
wrote "Messiah." At one point, the composer had tears in
his eyes and cried out to his servant, "I did think I did see
all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself." He had just
finished writing the "Hallelujah" Chorus.
Amazingly, "Messiah" came at a time in his life when the
56-year-old Handel was facing bankruptcy and complete failure.
He also had serious health problems. Also, some Church of
England authorities were apparently critical of him and his
work. He seemed all washed up - with his future behind him. But
writing "Messiah" proved to be the positive turning point
in his life.
Handel was born in Germany. His father wanted him to study law,
but George Frederick had an aptitude for music, which was clear
early on. His mother bought him a harpsichord, which they kept
up in the attic, secret from his father. By the time he was
twelve, Handel wrote his first work. Later, after his father's
death, he tried to study law, but he had no interest. So he
studied music at the University of Halle.
In 1712, Handel moved
to England and never returned to Germany. While he experienced
various successes through various compositions, including operas
and sacred operas (oratorios, based on biblical themes), Kavanaugh notes that his failures threatened to overwhelm
Handel: "His occasional commercial successes soon met with
financial disaster...He drove himself relentlessly to recover
from one failure after another, and finally his health began to
By 1741 he was swimming in debt.
It seemed certain he would land in debtor's prison."
But 1741 proved to be the turning point. On the one hand, he
gave what he feared was his farewell concert. On the other hand,
Jennens, gave him the libretto (a text) for a sacred work. It
was essentially 73 Bible verses, every word coming from the King
James Version of the Bible. 42 of the verses come from the Old
Testament, including many passages from the Psalms and Isaiah.
Thirty-one come from the New Testament.
A charity in Dublin paid him money to write something for a
charity performance. "Messiah" was the result, and it
was very successful. According to one source, proceeds freed 142
from debtors' prison.
~ Hark the
the Herald Angels Sing" was written by Charles Wesley, brother
of John Wesley founder of the Methodist church, in 1739.
A sombre man, he requested slow and solemn music for his lyrics
and thus "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" was sung to a
different tune initially.
Over a hundred years later Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
composed a cantata in 1840 to commemorate Johann Gutenberg's
invention of the printing press. English musician William H.
Cummings adapted Mendelssohn's music to fit the lyrics of
"Hark the Herald Angels Sing" already written by Wesley.
Three hundred and fifty years later, its still going strong. Think the
latest Lady Gaga hit will last that long?
~ Have A Holly
"Have A Holly Jolly
Christmas" is a 1962 Christmas song written by Johnny
Marks, who also wrote "Rocking Around The Christmas
Tree", "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer," and Chuck
Berry's "Run, Run, Rudolph."
It is most famously performed by Burl Ives. The song has
since become one of the Top 25 most-performed "holiday" songs
written by ASCAP members, for the first five years of the 21st
The song was featured in the 1964 Rankin-Bass Christmas
special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, in which Burl
Ives voiced the narrator, Sam the Snowman. Originally to be sung
by Larry D. Mann as Yukon Cornelius, the song, as well as
"Silver and Gold," was given to Burl Ives due to his singing
This version was also included on the soundtrack album for the
special and later released as a single.
"Have A Holly Jolly Christmas" was re-recorded by Ives
for his 1965 holiday album, Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.
This version of the song has a somewhat slower arrangement than
the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer version and features
an acoustic guitar solo introduction; it is this version that
has since become the more commonly heard rendition on radio. The
song's enduring popularity is evidenced by its reaching #30 on
the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in 1998, as well as #21
on the US Country Digital Songs chart and #5 on the Holiday 100
chart in 2011.
Merry Little Christmas
Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, Hall of Fame writers
who had written music for such movie classics like Gentlemen
Prefer Blondes and Girl Crazy, were contracted by MGM
to write the music for Meet Me In St. Louis, which
starred Mary Astor, June Lockhart, Margaret O’Brien, and
a twenty-two year old who had made her big screen debut five
years earlier as a girl from Kansas with her little dog, Judy
The plot in the movie called for Judy's character,
Esther, to sing a song to her little sister, Tootie, who was
worried that the family's impending move from New York City to
Missouri would cause Santa Claus from being able to find her.
The scene was set on Christmas Eve night with Esther and Tootie
looking out from an upstairs window onto a snow covered front
Martin and Blane felt the movie had taken
a sudden tender and
sad turn and that the song Judy was about to sing should reflect
the pain she was feeling. The song's first lines were "Have
yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last; next
year will be living in the past." They brought the song to Judy,
who promptly refused to sing the song the way it was written.
She sent the song back and requested that they put a more
uplifting spin on it.
The film's director, and Judy's future
husband, Vincente Minelli, Liza's dad, also felt this way
and required the songwriters to recreate the film's crucial
Judy based this request on the fact that during her time off
from making movies, she had spent countless days entertaining
troops across the world. She knew from her interaction
with the troops that they all just wanted to live through the
war and return home. Her instinct was that "Have Yourself A Merry
Little Christmas" would provide them with hope that they
would return home.
Martin and Blane reworked the song with a more encouraging
opening: "Have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart
be light; from now on our troubles will be out of sight."
Judy approved of the new lyrics and saw it as the perfect anthem
for all those troops who wanted more than anything else to be
home for Christmas..
played a pivotal role in three of the best-known Christmas
songs. Two of them, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and
"Frosty the Snowman" were written for him, and his
performances of them made them famous. The first, however -
"Here comes Santa Claus" - he had a hand in writing, as
According to Autry, he was inspired to the lyrics in 1947 while riding
ahead of the Santa float on his horse down Sunset and Hollywood
Boulevards, in the annual Hollywood Christmas parade. At the
time he was at the top of his profession, and was a bit confused
that, as he cantered around on his world-famous horse and waved,
the kids could care less. They just looked past him, and down
the street, screaming at the top of their lungs about their
sighting: "Here comes Santa Claus! Here Comes Santa Claus!!"
So he put it to song with friend
Probably one of the most
simplistic of all holiday songs, "I'll Be Home For Christmas"
was penned by Walter Kent and James "Kim" Gannon.
It contains an introduction, one verse, one chorus, and a
mere twelve lines. Originally from Brooklyn, Gannon called upon
his every day experiences of watching families say good bye to
their sons going off to war; churches filled to the maximum with
parents praying for the safe return of their children; the rush
towards the mailman with the hopes of a letter from an enlisted
He also saw the fear in people's eyes when the telegraph
delivery man showed up in the neighborhood; the news reports of
the latest outbreak of war in places that had been mentioned in
the last letter home;
the streets filled with holiday
decorations, but the feeling of joy
missing from the air.
With all this in mind, Gannon could have easily tried to incorporate all
these components into a complicated song. Instead, he wrote a
simple, straight forward song about the pain of being away from
for the holidays.
When he finished his poem, Gannon took the song to composer Walter Kent,
who put the right melody and feel to the words. Kent realized
the song was about two things: a message from the family members
left behind telling the soldiers that they missed them terribly
and a message from the soldiers telling those family members not
to give up hope and that the soldiers would return home soon.
In October of 1943, Bing Crosby recorded the song as a
follow up to his enormous hit of 1942, "White Christmas." As big as
"White Christmas" was, when "I'll Be Home
For Christmas" was released, it initially received more
airplay and produced more sales than the singer's hit of the
previous year. More than seventy years after its release, it
remains one of the most requested songs every holiday season by
members of our
Hear Josh Groban's
"I'll Be Home For Christmas"
Came Upon A
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear was written by
Edmund Hamilton Sears in 1849. The carol started as a
poem written by its author who was a minister living in
Massachusetts at the time. The music for It Came Upon A
Midnight Clear was composed a decade later by American musician
Storrs Willis in 1859
who was inspired by the
Go to our "It Came Upon A
Midnight Clear" Page for more
and to hear Sixpence None
The Richer's version
It's Beginning To Look
A Lot Like Christmas
"It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" is a
classic Christmas song written in 1951 by Meredith Willson,
who wrote the Broadway play The Music Man, which included
his famous songs "76 Trombones" and "'Till
There Was You."
The song was originally titled "It's Beginning to Look Like
and celebrates that time when Christmas decorations appear in
stores and public displays, which has been earlier and earlier
in recent years. There are some dated references in the song,
such as the "five and ten," which is a store selling inexpensive
items. The "Hopalong boots" the child wishes for are a reference
to those worn by the fictional cowboy Hopalong Cassidy, a
popular TV show in the 1950s.
The classic has been recorded by many artists, but was a hit by
Perry Como and The Fontane Sisters with Mitchell Ayres &
His Orchestra on September 10, 1951 and released on RCA
Victor as a (45 rpm) single (78 rpm). Bing Crosby
recorded a version on October 1, 1951 which was also widely
Johnny Mathis recorded this in 1971 for
his second Christmas album. His version was used in the movie
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, and gradually received more
airplay than Como's. Andy Williams and Dean Martin
also recorded popular versions of the song. Michael
covered the song and released it on his holiday album,
Christmas. His version debuted on the Billboard Hot 100
chart dated December 17, 2011.
It's The Most Wonderful Time
Of The Year
"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year"
is a popular Christmas song written in 1963 by Edward Pola
and George Wyle. It was recorded and released that year
by pop singer Andy Williams for his first Christmas
album, The Andy Williams Christmas Album. However, the
song was not released as a promotional single by Columbia
Records that year, as they instead opted to promote his cover of
"White Christmas" as the official promo single from the
The song is a celebration and description of activities
associated with the Christmas season, focusing primarily on
get-togethers between friends and families. Among the activities
included in the song is the telling of "scary ghost stories," a
Victorian Christmas tradition that has mostly fallen into
disuse, but survives in the seasonal popularity of numerous
adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
Other activities mentioned include hosting parties, spontaneous
visits from friends, universal social gaiety, spending time with
loved ones, sledding for children, roasting marshmallows,
sharing stories about previous Christmases, and singing
Christmas carols in winter weather.
In a 2005 interview, Williams discusses how The Andy Williams
Show figured into his recording of "It's the Most
Wonderful Time of the Year": "George Wyle, who is a vocal
director, who wrote all of the choir stuff and all of the duets
and trios and things that I did with all the guests, he wrote a
song just for the show - I think the second Christmas show we
did - called "Most Wonderful Time of the Year".
So I did that, you know, every Christmas, and then other people
started doing it. And it's become over 30 years a big standard.
I think it's one of the top 10 Christmas songs of all time now."
In the issue of Billboard magazine dated November 28, 2009, the
list of the "Top 10 Holiday Songs (Since 2001)" places the
Williams recording of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the
Year" at No. 5. (ASCAP) ranked it at No. 4 in 2010.
The song was selected as the theme song for Christmas Seals in
both 2009 and 2012.
See Amy Grant's live
performance of her popular version of
"It's The Most Wonderful Time
Of The Year"
Born in the small town of Medford, Mass., James Pierpont
showed great musical promise as a singer, songwriter, and organ
player throughout his youth and into early adulthood. His
father was the pastor of the town's Unitarian church with James
being called upon to assist with the choirs and musicians
James was given the task of writing music to use with a
Thanksgiving service his father would preside over.
As James was working on his musical assignment, he became
distracted by a bunch of young boys who were playing outside his
window. The boys were riding their sleds down a nearby hill.
James decided to take a break and watch the boys and began to
recall times in his youth when he raced sleds and sleighs with
strands of bells attached to them...
Bells that would "jingle" as
the sleds and sleighs.
The sled races inspired James and he began to write down a
melody. Unfortunately, James did not have a piano, so he had to
trudge through the snow and walk to the home of Mrs. Waterman,
the only home in Medford with a piano.
He explained his story
and Mrs. Waterman let him sit down at the piano and play the
When he finished, he went home and began to write down words to
go with the melody.
Using the images he had seen earlier
day and his recollections of his youth, James put the finishing
touches on "One Horse Open Sleigh," the original name of
the song that would soon become
known as "Jingle Bells."
"One Horse Open Sleigh" was debuted on Thanksgiving at the
Medford Unitarian Church's
At that time,
Thanksgiving was the most significant holiday in New England, so
a large number of people heard the song. So many people heard
it and liked it, that they requested it be performed again the
following month at the church's Christmas celebration.
Christmas performance exposed the song to hundreds of out of
town visitors who liked the song so much, they brought it back
own home towns.
Because they had heard the song on Christmas Day, they assumed
the song was written about Christmas, not Thanksgiving. Though
it wasn't published until 1857 following James' move to
Savannah, Georgia, and wasn't renamed "Jingle Bells" until 1859, the song captured the imagery of an ideal rural
with snow, sleighs, and jingle bells that provided the
inspiration for hundreds of greeting cards, books, movies, and
even other holiday songs, like Bobby Helms'
Go to The "Jingle Bells" Page for
and a video clip
Jingle Bell Rock
"Jingle Bell Rock" is
an American popular Christmas song first released by Bobby
Helms in 1957 (after it was recorded in October 1957). It
has received frequent airplay in the United States during every
Christmas season since then. "Jingle Bell Rock" was
composed by Joseph Carleton Beal and James Ross Boothe.
Beal was a Massachusetts-born public relations professional and
longtime resident of Atlantic City, NJ, and Boothe was an
American writer in the advertising business.
"Jingle Bell Rock" has been performed by many, but Helms'
version is the best known. The song's title and some of its
lyrics are an extension of the old Christmas standard, "Jingle
Bells". It makes brief references to other popular songs of
the 1950s, such as "Rock Around the Clock", and mentions
going to a "Jingle hop". An electric guitar played by Hank
Garland can be heard playing the first notes of the chorus
of "Jingle Bells".
Helms' original version charted at No. 13 on Billboard's Most
Played C&W chart. It also crossed to the pop charts, peaking at
No. 6 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart, and at No. 11 on
Cashbox magazine's January 11, 1958 chart.
As of November 25, 2016, total sales of the digital track of
Helms' original Decca recording stand at 780,000 downloads
according to Nielsen SoundScan, placing it ninth on the list of
all-time best-selling Christmas/holiday digital singles in
Joy To The World
was not a bullfrog in this version of that title.
The words and lyrics of the old carol 'Joy to the World'
were written in 1719 by Isaac Watts (1674-1748). The
father of John Watts was a Non-conformist and so extreme
were his views that he was imprisoned twice. Watts was ordained
as a Pastor of an Independent congregation. He wrote many hymns
and Carols and was awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree by the
University of Edinburgh in 1728. The music to the carol is
by George Frederick Handel
Go to The "Joy To The World" Page for more
and video clips from Mannheim Steamroller
and Casting Crowns
Let It Snow
The wonderful Christmas song Let It Snow was created by
lyricist Sammy Cahn and the composer Jule Styne in
1945. The duo wrote a slew of hits including "Three Coins in
a Fountain," "It's Magic,"
"Time After Time," "I Believe,"
Me Irresponsible," and
"My Kind of Town."
The words and lyrics of Let It Snow reflect the feeling
of warmth and
security associated with Christmas
and brings in
the more modern
customs of popping corn!
The song was reprised in recent years when used in the Bruce
Willis film Die Hard, which started with the film's
hero travelling to meet his family at Christmas. Andy Williams has the most recognizable version of the
song, recorded in the mid-1960's.
Hear Andy Williams singing
"Let It Snow"
Little Drummer Boy
The words and music to the Christmas song Little Drummer Boy
were composed by Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati and
Harry Simeone in 1958. The lyrics consist of no less than
21 rum pum pum pum' - a major part of the song and therefore
presenting an apparently easy task for the lyricist! However,
Little Drummer Boy has been a huge hit for several artists.
The most notable rendition was created by the most unlikely
combination of Bing Crosby and David Bowie.
1976 version of Little Drummer Boy was a massive hit for
the artists and was in fact Bing's most successful recording
since the legendary White Christmas thirty years earlier.
Crosby died shortly after within a week of the death of
See Bing Crosby's famous duet with
David Bowie doing the medley "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy"
Mary Did You Know
"Mary, Did You Know?" is a Christmas song
with lyrics written by Mark Lowry and music written by
Buddy Greene. It was originally recorded by Christian
recording artist Michael English on his self-titled debut
solo album in 1991 (English and Lowry were both members of the
Gaither Vocal Band at the time).
It reached No. 6 on CCM Magazine's AC Chart. Lowry would record
the song several times himself, most notably with the Gaither
Vocal Band on their 1998 Christmas album Still the Greatest
Story Ever Told.
The song has since gone on to become a modern Christmas classic,
being recorded by many artists over the years across multiple
The song was also used as the basis for a stage musical, also
titled Mary, Did You Know and written by Bruce Greer,
that won the 1999 Dove Award for Musical of the Year. Among the
most popular versions are by Kenny Rogers and by
Pentatonix' Official Video for
"Mary Did You Know"
The First Noel
The First Noel is unknown in origin but is generally
thought to be English dating back to the sixteenth century.
There is a misconception that the First Noel was French
and it is believed that this is because of the French spelling
of Noel as opposed to the olde English Anglo-Saxon spelling of
the word as in Nowell.
After England was captured by the Normans, numerous words were
adopted from the Norman French language and Noel was re-spelled
as Nowell, early printed versions of this carol use the Nowell
spelling. The First Noel was first published in 1833 when it
appeared in "Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern," a
collection of seasonal carols gathered by
William B. Sandys.
O Christmas Tree!
"O Christmas Tree" is a traditional German Carol. The
author of the lyrics are unknown as is the composer of the tune.
The tradition of bringing a tree inside and decorating it with
candy, baubles and bells was started in the nineteenth century
and is immortalized in the carol O Christmas Tree lyrics.
The carol, which is also known by it's German title, "O
Tannenbaum," has been performed and recorded by hundreds of
artists over the centuries
O Come All
The text to the carol O Come All Ye Faithful was
originally written in Latin (Adeste Fideles) and was
intended to be a hymn. It is attributed to John Wade, an
The music to O Come All Ye Faithful was composed by
fellow Englishman John Reading in the early 1700s. The
tune was first published in
a collection known as
"Cantus Diversi" in 1751.
In 1841 Rev. Frederick Oakley
worked on the familiar
O Come All Ye Faithful which replaced the
older Latin lyrics
Go to our "O Come All Ye
Faithful" Page for more and to hear Celtic Woman's version
O Holy Night
The words and lyrics of the old carol 'O Holy Night' were
written by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure in 1847. Cappeau
was a wine seller by trade but was asked by the parish priest to
write a poem for Christmas. He obliged and wrote the beautiful
words of the hymn. He realized that it should have music to
accompany the words and approached his friend Adolphe
Charles Adams (1803-1856). The music for the
poem was composed by Adams.
Adolphe had attended the Paris conservatoire and forged a
brilliant career as a composer. It was translated into English
by John Sullivan Dwight (1812-1893).
Go to our "O Holy Night" Page
for more and to hear
O Little Town of Bethlehem !
Rector Phillips Brooks
(1835-1903) of Philadelphia, wrote
the words to O Little Town of Bethlehem in 1868,
following a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He was inspired by the
view of Bethlehem from the hills of Palestine especially at
night time, hence
the lyrics of
O Little Town of Bethlehem.
His church organist Lewis Redner (1831-1908) wrote the
melody for the Sunday school children's choir.
Please Come Home For Christmas
(Bells Will Be Ringing)
Rector Phillips Brooks "Please Come
Home for Christmas" is a Christmas song, released in 1960,
by the American blues singer and pianist Charles Brown.
The title is often thought to be "Bells Will Be Ringing",
which are the first four words of the song.
Hitting Billboard's Hot 100 chart in December 1961, the tune
Brown co-wrote with Gene Redd peaked at position #76. It
appeared on the Christmas Singles chart for nine seasons,
hitting #1 in 1972.
It includes a number of characteristics of Christmas music, such
as multiple references in the lyrics to the Christmas season and
Christmas traditions, and the use of a Church bell type sound,
created using a piano,
at the start of the song.
In 1978, the rock band Eagles covered and released
the song as a holiday single. Their version peaked at #18 on the
U.S. Billboard Hot 100, the first Christmas song to reach the
Top 20 on that chart since Roy Orbison's "Pretty
Paper" in 1963. This was the first Eagles song to feature
Timothy B. Schmit on bass (having replaced founding member
Randy Meisner the previous year). The lineup features
Don Henley (drums/vocals), Glenn Frey (piano, backing
vocals), Joe Walsh (guitar, backing vocals), Schmit
(bass/backing vocals), and Don Felder (lead guitar).
Originally released as a vinyl 7" single, it was re-released as
a CD single in 1995, reaching #15 on the Billboard Adult
Contemporary chart. This version includes the lyrics "bells will
be ringing the sad, sad news" (that is, a Christmas alone) as
opposed to Brown's original version which references the "glad,
(that is, Christmas in general).
the Christmas Tree
will come up again with a few other Christmas classics.
Johnny Marks, the fella who wrote "Have A Holly Jolly
Christmas," Chuck Berry's "Run, Rudolph, Run," "Rudolph, the
Red-Nosed Reindeer" and the rest of the songs from the
Rankin-Bass animated feature shot yet another seasonal hit onto
the airwaves with this sock-hop favorite written in 1942 and
recorded by Georgia native, Brenda Lee ("I'm Sorry,"
"Sweet Nothings"), who was inaugurated into the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame
in March, 2002.
Marks himself is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame,
based mainly on the strength of his Christmas offerings.
Oh - By the way...Johnny Marks
is Jewish, as are the writers of 8 out
of the 10 most popular Christmas
songs of all time.
family was decimated by the financial struggles that the
Great Depression inflicted on millions of Americans. Though he
had a college degree, Bob took a job at Montgomery Ward's as an
advertising copywriter to
support his family.
Though times were difficult, the Mays were able to stay afloat.
But illness struck Bob's wife, Evelyn, when she was diagnosed
with cancer in 1936. The family's savings had to be used to
help battle the disease. After two years of fighting, Evelyn
was getting worse and it became apparent she would not survive.
Bob and Evelyn's four year old daughter wanted to know what was
wrong with her mother and why she wasn't like other mothers.
Bob wanted Barbara to understand that there was always hope and
that being different wasn't necessarily
a bad thing.
Drawing upon his creativity derived from his job, Bob told his
daughter a bedtime story about a reindeer with a large, red
nose. He detailed the pain the reindeer felt by being
different, but also the joy he felt when he realized his
differences could be used to help others.
Barbara loved the story and asked that Bob tell it to her every
night before bed. As the days and weeks went by, the story
became more and more elaborate. Bob even gave the reindeer
Unable to purchase a gift for Barbara, Bob decided to put his
story onto paper in a homemade book. Using his skills as a
copywriter and artist, Bob drew all the pictures for the book as
Shortly before Christmas arrived, Evelyn lost her battle with
cancer. But Bob insisted on finishing the book and had a
completed copy of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" under
the tree on Christmas
morning for Barbara.
At the Montgomery Ward holiday party, co-workers who knew of
Bob's children's story asked him to read it to them.
Reluctantly, Bob read the story. The co-workers were so
impressed by the story that they asked for copies of their own.
And the chairman of the board of Ward's recognized the reaction
to the story and saw a marketing opportunity. The chairman,
Stewell Avery, purchased all the rights to the story from
Bob and had thousands of copies printed and shipped to stores
across the country in time for Christmas 1939. For the next six
years, any child who visited Santa in a Ward's store would get a
free copy of "Rudolph."
By 1946, Ward's had given away more than six million copies of
Rudolph. With requests for a new version to be printed, in one
of the most generous moves ever made by the chairman of a major
corporation, Stewell gave all rights back to Bob May. A year
later, the release of the newly published and printed version
made Bob a wealthy man.
A year later, Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks (there's
that name again) suggested the story be turned into a song.
Marks, who also wrote "Have A Holly, Jolly Christmas" and
"Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree," created the lyrics
and the music for "Rudolph," and then offered it to a
variety of artists, including Bing Crosby
who both passed
on the song.
As a last effort, Marks offered the song to country star Gene
Autry, who Marks thought might be looking for a follow up to
the hit "Here Comes Santa Claus." Gene initially also passed on
the song, but Marks asked him to give it another chance.
Gene took the song home and played it for his wife Ina. When
Ina heard the line "...they wouldn't let poor Rudolph play in any
reindeer games," she insisted that Gene record the song.
A few weeks later, Gene performed the song for the first time at
a Madison Square Garden rodeo. The song was such a hit, the
record label rushed it into the stores for the 1949 holiday
season. "Rudolph" soon became the second
best-selling Christmas song of all time, behind only "White Christmas."
The song and the story of the unique reindeer were turned into a
television special - which in its own right became a holiday
classic - in 1964. A gift that was designed to comfort a child
who had recently lost her mother to illness ended up giving the
world one of the most beloved characters of all time.
Go to our "Rudolph and Frosty" Page
for more and to see Gene Autry and
The Ronnette's versions
Coming to Town
Claus is Coming to Town," was written in 1932 by Haven
Gillespie and J. Fred Coots. After countless versions
by stars as varied Elvis Presley, The Jackson 5, Burl
Ives, Bruce Springsteen
it's hard to believe that Gillespie and Coots' song
was turned down all over town because it was "a kid's song."
Even though Coots was a writer on the Eddie Cantor radio
show, Cantor at first passed on the song. But just like "Rudolph," it was at the urging of the singer's wife that he
agreed to do it. Again, good advice.
The origin of the Christmas carol we know as Silent Night
was a poem that was written in 1816 by an Austrian priest
On Christmas Eve in 1818 in the small alpine village called
Oberndorf it is reputed that the organ at St. Nicholas Church
had broken. Mohr gave the poem of Silent Night (Stille Nacht)
to his friend Franz Xavier Gruber and the melody was
composed with this in mind. The music to Silent Night was
therefore intended for a guitar and the simple score was
finished in time for Midnight Mass.
Silent Night is the most famous
Christmas carol of all
Go to The "Silent Night" Page
for more and to hear
Jay Livingston and Ray Evans met while both were
students at the University of Pennsylvania. Following their
graduation in 1937, both moved to New York City where they took
up residence in the famed Tin Pan Alley - a hotbed of musical
creativity. The duo moved to Hollywood in 1945, where they
began to work for Paramount Pictures. It was at Paramount that
the duo enjoyed their biggest successes, including Best Song
"Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be
Will Be)," "Mona Lisa," "Buttons and Bows," and "Tammy."
Bob Hope was one of the biggest stars of the 20th
Century. He was a comic, radio performer, actor, and television
star. He garnered additional notoriety beginning in 1942 for
spending every holiday season with the men and women in uniform
of the US Armed Forces. Because of his work with the Armed
Forces during his lifetime, he became the most honored private
citizen in history, as well as becoming known as "Mr. Christmas"
to the troops, even though he had never had a successful
Christmas movie or recorded a successful Christmas song.
would change in 1951 with the release of The Lemon Drop Kid.
The movie was set in the city, which was a new setting for a
holiday movie. Most of the era's holiday movies were set in the
country. With a city as the backdrop, Livingston and Evans were
asked to create songs that were designed for urban life. While
playing with a small silver bell and discussing holiday scenes
in the city, the two began to visualize the way streets and
display windows were decorated, happy shoppers, blinking red and
green stoplights (yellow lights had not yet been added), and
children waiting in line to meet Santa. The elements of the
song quickly came together.
Unable to perform the song for Bob,
the duo decided to sing it
to Ray's wife.Upon hearing the song, she
Confused, Jay and Ray asked her why she was laughing. She told
them to listen to the lyrics they had written: "Tinker bell,
tinker bell, it's Christmastime in the city," was what was
originally written, with
"Tinker Bells" being the name of
the song. Seeing the error in their choice of words, they
replaced the word tinker with silver and a holiday
Though The Lemon Drop Kid starring Bob Hope was a
the song was a huge hit. Bob was the first
one to sing it and he continued to do so during all his holiday USO tours. But, the song didn't find mass public appeal until
Bob's close friend, Bing Crosby,
recorded the song.
gained even greater popularity when Kate Smith, recorded
of the seasonal favorite.
A favorite for the millions of those who had moved to urban
areas following World War II - including President John F.
Kennedy who named the song his favorite Christmas tune - the
song reflected what a new generation of Americans was
experiencing: Christmas in the city.
See the original version of "Silver
Bells" with Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell from "Lemon Drop Kid"
Best remembered for "The Syncopated Clock" and this
holiday classic Leroy Anderson was one of America's most
popular composers of light, melodic orchestral music. A talented
conductor and arranger, he had a particular knack for creating
humorous sound effects with standard orchestral
In the middle of a hot 1947 summer Anderson was living in
Woodbury, Connecticut. He began work on the piece that would
become "Sleigh Ride"; completed the following year, the
tune would become a Christmas classic, thanks to Anderson's
imaginative sound effects (sleigh bells, clopping hooves,
cracking whips, and neighing trumpets.
Words were added by
Mitchell Parish in 1950, who added
words to six other Anderson works
after they became popular.
Go to The "Sleigh Ride" Page for more and to
watch and hear versions by Johnny Mathis, Leroy Anderson and
To most , "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is a delightful
nonsense rhyme set to music. But it had a quite serious purpose
when it was written. It is a good deal more than just a
repetitious melody with pretty phrases and a list of strange
Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829, when
Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England, were
prohibited from ANY practice of their faith by law - private OR
It was a crime to BE a Catholic.
"The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England as one of the
"catechism songs" to help young Catholics learn the tenets of
their faith - a memory aid, when to be caught with anything in
writing indicating adherence to the Catholic faith could not
only get you imprisoned, it could get you hanged, or shortened
by a head - or hanged, drawn and quartered, a rather peculiar
and ghastly punishment I'm not aware was ever practiced anywhere
else. Hanging, drawing and quartering involved hanging a person
by the neck until they had almost, but not quite, suffocated to
death; then the party was taken down from the gallows, and
disembowelled while still alive; and while the entrails were
still lying on the street, where the executioners stomped all
over them, the victim was tied to four large farm horses, and
literally torn into five parts - one to each limb
The songs gifts are hidden meanings to the teachings of the
faith. The "true love" mentioned in the song doesn't refer to an
earthly suitor, it refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives
the presents refers to every baptized person. The partridge in a
pear tree is Jesus. In the song, Christ is symbolically
presented as a mother partridge which feigns injury to decoy
predators from her helpless nestlings, much in memory of the
expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem:
"Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered thee
under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but thou wouldst not
have it so..."
The other symbols mean the following:
2 Turtle Doves =
The Old and New Testaments.
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues.
4 Calling Birds = the 4 Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists.
5 Golden Rings = The first 5 Books
of the Old Testament, the
"Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's
fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying =
The 6 days of creation.
7 Swans A-swimming = the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven
8 Maids A-milking = the 8 beatitudes.
9 Ladies Dancing =
the 9 Fruits of the Holy Spirit.
10 Lords A-leaping =
the 10 commandments.
11 Pipers Piping =
the 11 faithful apostles.
12 Drummers Drumming = the 12 points of doctrine in the
One of the biggest versions of
Days of Christmas" was by John Denver and the Muppets" To see
of Orient Are
American carol We Three Kings of Orient Are was written
in 1857 by Rev. John Henry Hopkins. The minister
assembled an elaborate Christmas pageant, for which he wrote
both words and music, for the General Theological Seminary in
New York City, where he was instructor in church music.
One of the selections dealt with the Wise Men who came from the
East, and for this
part of the pageant,
Hopkins created one of
most beloved carols.
The three kings, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, brought: gold,
traditionally the metal of royalty; frankincense, an aromatic
bark whose smoke was though to reach the gates of heaven; and
myrrh, am unguent used in the preparation of bodies for burial.
The gifts thus signified Jesus' kingship, His oneness with God,
eventual death on the cross.
We Wish You A
Merry Christmas! ~
The author and composer of We Wish You a Merry Christmas
cannot be traced, however it is believed to date back to England
in the sixteenth century. The tradition of carolers being given
Christmas treats for singing to wealthy members of the community
is reflected in this Christmas song - We Wish You
Over the years the fashion for figgy puddings mentioned in the
carol has faded. But for the curious, the recipe consisted of
the most important ingredient, which was, of course, figs
together with butter, sugar, eggs ,milk, rum, apple, lemon and
orange peel, nuts, cinnamon, cloves and ginger!
Not dissimilar to the modern day Christmas Puddings!
What Child Is
If the 15th
century marked the first Golden Age of the Carols, the 19th
century was clearly the second. Occasionally their creation was
an unusual amalgam of melodies (at least in the eyes of the
contemporaries). The carol, What Child Is This? is based on the
anonymous Tudor tune, Greensleeves, which is thought to
have originally been a love song written for a prostitute. (They
wore green sleeves in medieval England.)
Its haunting lyrics were filled with everything but holiday and
saintly imagery and even Shakespeare mentioned the song
in his play, The Merry Wives of Windsor.
In 1865, an Englishman named William Dix, wrote The
Manger Throne, of which three verses evolved into What
Child Is This using the Greensleeves melody. Recent
popular versions have been recorded by Josh Grobin,
Celine Dion, and Andrea Bocelli.
See Andrea Bocelli's
live performance of "What Child Is This?"
Born in 1901,
Bing Crosby had a long and versatile career in
entertainment, including radio, television, stage, and screen.
His successes in all these forms of entertainment made him one
of the most popular and profitable stars of all time.
In fact, he was the one of the original teen idols for kids in
the 1930s before Frank Sinatra took it to new levels in
the next decade.
But it will forever be Christmas and the songs surrounding the
holiday that put Bing on a first name basis with millions of
people the world over. Because of his success and power within
Hollywood, the very best songwriters were always available to
Bing and were always trying to get him to sing one of their
One of the best - if not the premier songwriter of the 20th
Century - was Irving Berlin. Born in Russia in 1888 as
Israel Baline, he grew up in New York City. In 1911, Irving
wrote "Alexander's Rag Time Band," which put him on the
path to stardom. During his 101 years, he also penned much
more, too numerous to mention, including, "Blue Skies,"
"Puttin' on the Ritz, "Easter Parade," "Heat Wave,"
"There's No Business Like Show Business," "God Bless America," and another Christmas classic,
But it was his work for a motion
picture score in 1941 that placed Irving into legendary status.
The movie, Holiday Inn, was to star Bing and Fred
Astaire. The story line revolved around the holiday season,
and thus, the music needed to reflect the plot of the movie.
The one song that was giving him difficulty was one about
Christmas itself. Since Irving was Jewish, being asked to write
a song about a holiday he had never
celebrated and didn't fully
have insight on was a daunting challenge.
Irving decided to focus on what he did know of Christmas. As a
native New Yorker, when he thought of the season, he remembered
snow, ice, cold, etc. But his surroundings while writing the
song - sunny and warm Los Angeles - made him realize that many
people didn't have those experiences. He recognized that one
thing that made the holiday special was the idea of a perfect
Christmas - one with pure white snow, glistening treetops, and
waiting for Santa's arrival.
When Irving had finished writing the song, he was not convinced
the song was good. He was so unsure about the song he thought
about scrapping it entirely and starting over. But before he
did that, he brought it to Bing and sang it for him. Bing told
Irving the song was perfect and not to change a thing.
Bing first performed the song on his Christmas Day radio show in
1941, just three weeks after the United States had entered World
The song would not be recorded for
six more months,
just prior to
Holiday Inn's release in theatres.
When the song was released following the movie's premiere, it
went to the top of the charts and stayed there for twelve
straight weeks. It went on to win the Oscar for best song of
Over the course of the next twenty years, "White Christmas"
charted fifteen more times, hitting number one in 1945 and 1946.
Crosby's single sold more than 30 million records and was the
best-selling single in any music category for over 70 years. It eventually
spawned the 1954 movie of the same name, White Christmas,
Bing himself, along with Danny Kaye and
It is not only the biggest selling Christmas song of all time,
but the biggest selling song...period!
Go to our "White Christmas" Page
and to see and hear
Bing Crosby's version
Christmas song Winter Wonderland was first published in
1934. The composer was Felix Bernard (1897-1944) and the
lyricist was Richard B. Smith
The most popular versions of this classic Christmas song were
recorded to high acclaim by the Andrews Sisters, Johnny
Mathis and Perry Como, and more recently, Amy
Grant. The lyrics of Winter Wonderland have undoubtedly contributed to
the magical vision of snow at Christmas together with the
tradition of building snowmen, therefore turning fantasy into
creating a real
Mathis' popular classic version of "Winter Wonderland"