White Christmas (song)

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"White Christmas"
Decca18429A.jpg
1942 78 single release of "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby on Decca Records, 18429 A, with Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra, Matrix # DLA 3009
Single by Bing Crosby with Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra
from the album Song Hits from Holiday Inn
B-side
Released 1942, 1945, 1950, 1955, 1970, 1983, 1988, 1989, 1998
Format
Recorded May 29, 1942
March 19, 1947
Genre
Length
  • 3:02 (1942 recording)
  • 3:04 (1947 recording)
Label
  • Decca (1942–1973 issues)
  • MCA (1983–1985 issues)
Songwriter(s) Irving Berlin
Bing Crosby with Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra singles chronology
"Be Careful, It's My Heart"
(1942)
"White Christmas"
(1942)
"Moonlight Becomes You"
(1942)
"Be Careful, It's My Heart"
(1942)
"White Christmas"
(1942)
"Moonlight Becomes You"
(1942)
Music video
"White Christmas" on YouTube

"White Christmas" is a 1942 Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. The version sung by Bing Crosby is the world's best-selling single with estimated sales in excess of 100 million copies worldwide.[1] Other versions of the song, along with Crosby's, have sold over 50 million copies.[2][3][4]

Origin[edit]

Accounts vary as to when and where Berlin wrote the song.[5] One story is that he wrote it in 1940, in warm La Quinta, California, while staying at the La Quinta Hotel, a frequent Hollywood retreat also favored by writer-director-producer Frank Capra, although the Arizona Biltmore also claims the song was written there.[6] He often stayed up all night writing—he told his secretary, "Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I've ever written—heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written!"[7] The song "White Christmas", was actually written by Irving Berlin while staying overnight with a friend in Banning, California. It was on New Year's Day in 1940 when Irving looked out the window only to discover a light snowfall. Snow occasionally falls in the San Gorgonio pass and while in Banning, Irving wrote the words to "White Christmas" because of the surprise of the snow which came during the early morning hours, covering Banning.

Bing Crosby version[edit]

1945 V-Disc release by the U.S. Army of "White Christmas" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas" by Bing Crosby as No. 441B.
Picture sleeve of 1959 reissue by Decca Records (9-23778)

The first public performance of the song was by Bing Crosby, on his NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall on Christmas Day, 1941; a copy of the recording from the radio program is owned by Crosby's estate and was loaned to CBS News Sunday Morning for their December 25, 2011, program.[5] He subsequently recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers and for Decca Records in just 18 minutes on May 29, 1942, and it was released on July 30 as part of an album of six 78-rpm discs from the musical film Holiday Inn.[5][8] At first, Crosby did not see anything special about the song. He just said "I don't think we have any problems with that one, Irving."[9] The song established and solidified the fact that there could be commercially successful secular Christmas songs[10]—in this case, written by a Jewish-American songwriter, who also wrote "God Bless America."

The song initially performed poorly and was overshadowed by Holiday Inn's first hit song: "Be Careful, It's My Heart".[8] By the end of October 1942, "White Christmas" topped the Your Hit Parade chart. It remained in that position until well into the new year.[8] It has often been noted that the mix of melancholy—"just like the ones I used to know"—with comforting images of home—"where the treetops glisten"—resonated especially strongly with listeners during World War II. A few weeks after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Crosby introduced “White Christmas” on a Christmas Day broadcast.[11] The Armed Forces Network was flooded with requests for the song. The recording is noted for Crosby's whistling during the second chorus.[8]

In 1942 alone, Crosby's recording spent eleven weeks on top of the Billboard charts. The original version also hit number one on the Harlem Hit Parade for three weeks,[12] Crosby's first-ever appearance on the black-oriented chart. Re-released by Decca, the single returned to the No. 1 spot during the holiday seasons of 1945 and 1946 (on the chart dated January 4, 1947), thus becoming the only single with three separate runs at the top of the U.S. charts. The recording became a chart perennial, reappearing annually on the pop chart twenty separate times before Billboard magazine created a distinct Christmas chart for seasonal releases.

In Holiday Inn, the composition won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1942.[13] In the film, Crosby sings "White Christmas" as a duet with actress Marjorie Reynolds, though her voice was dubbed by Martha Mears. This now-familiar scene was not the moviemakers' initial plan. In the script as originally conceived, Reynolds, not Crosby, would sing the song.[8] The song would feature in another Crosby film, the 1954 musical White Christmas, which became the highest-grossing film of 1954. (Crosby made yet another studio recording of the song, accompanied by Joseph J. Lilley's orchestra and chorus, for the film's soundtrack album.)

The version most often heard today on radio during the Christmas season is the 1947 re-recording. The 1942 master was damaged due to frequent use. Crosby re-recorded the track on March 19, 1947, accompanied again by the Trotter Orchestra and the Darby Singers, with every effort made to reproduce the original recording session.[7] The re-recording is recognizable by the addition of flutes and celesta in the beginning.

Although Crosby dismissed his role in the song's success, saying later that "a jackdaw with a cleft palate could have sung it successfully," he was associated with it for the rest of his career.

Formats and track listing[edit]

These are the formats and track listings of single releases of "White Christmas".

10" shellac single – U.S. (Decca – 18429)[14][15]
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "White Christmas" Irving Berlin 3:02
2. "Let's Start The New Year Right" Irving Berlin  
CD single – UK (MCA Records – MCSTD48105)[16]
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "White Christmas" Irving Berlin 3:06
2. "Auld Lang Syne" Traditional 1:38
3. "Peace On Earth/The Little Drummer Boy" Henry W. Longfellow, K.Davis/H.Onorati 2:37

Sales figures[edit]

Crosby's "White Christmas" single has been credited with selling 50 million copies, the most by any release and therefore it is the biggest-selling single worldwide of all time. The Guinness Book of World Records 2009 Edition lists the song as a 100-million seller, encompassing all versions of the song, including albums.[4][5] Crosby's holiday collection Merry Christmas was first released as an LP in 1949, and has never been out of print since.

There has been confusion and debate on whether Crosby's record is or is not the best-selling single, due to a lack of information on sales of "White Christmas," because Crosby's recording was released before the advent of the modern-day US and UK singles charts.[17] However, after careful research, Guinness World Records in 2007 concluded that, worldwide, Crosby's recording of "White Christmas" has, in their estimation, sold at least 50 million copies, and that Elton John's recording of "Candle in the Wind 1997" has sold 33 million, making Crosby's recording the best-selling single of all time.[2] However, an update in the 2009 edition of the book decided to further help settle the controversy amicably by naming both John's and Crosby's songs to be "winners" by stating that John's recording is the "best-selling single since UK and US singles charts began in the 1950s," while maintaining that "the best-selling single of all time was released before the first pop charts," and that this distinction belongs to "White Christmas," which it says "was listed as the world's best-selling single in the first-ever Guinness Book of Records (published in 1955) and—remarkably—still retains the title more than 50 years later."[18]

Historic influence[edit]

In 1999, National Public Radio included it in the "NPR 100", which sought to compile the one hundred most important American musical works of the 20th century. Crosby's version of the song also holds the distinction of being ranked No. 2 on the "Songs of the Century" list, behind only Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow," as voted by members of the RIAA.[19] In 2002, the original 1942 version was one of 50 historically significant recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. In 2004, it finished at No. 5 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.

The recording was broadcast on Armed Forces Radio on April 30, 1975, as a secret, pre-arranged signal precipitating the U.S. evacuation from Saigon.[20]

Original verse[edit]

Irving Berlin's opening verse is often dropped in recordings. It is included on A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records, sung by Darlene Love; on Barbra Streisand's A Christmas Album; on the Carpenters' Christmas Portrait, sung by Karen Carpenter; on Neil Diamond's The Christmas Album; on Bette Midler's Cool Yule; on Libera's Christmas Album; and on Crash Test Dummies' Jingle All the Way.[7]

The sun is shining, the grass is green,
The orange and palm trees sway.
There's never been such a day
in Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it's December the twenty-fourth,—
And I am longing to be up North—[21]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Sweden (GLF)[22] Platinum 50,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Other versions[edit]

"White Christmas" is the most-recorded Christmas song; there have been more than 500 recorded versions of the song, in several different languages.[23]

1940s[edit]

1942
  • Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra (with Bob Carroll on lead vocal) released a version (Capitol F-124) that reached No. 16 on Billboard magazine's pop singles chart[24]
  • Charlie Spivak and his Orchestra (with Garry Stevens on lead vocal) released a version that reached No. 18 on Billboard's pop singles chart[25]
  • Freddy Martin and his Orchestra (with Clyde Rogers on lead vocal), reaching No. 20 on Billboard's pop singles chart (and again in December 1945, reaching No. 16)[26]
1944
  • Frank Sinatra (with backing orchestration under the direction of Axel Stordahl) reaching No. 7 on Billboard's pop singles chart (two more times: December 1945, No. 5; December 1946, No. 6)[27]
1946
  • Jo Stafford (with backing vocals by the Lyn Murray Singers and backing orchestration by Paul Weston) reaching No. 9 on Billboard's pop singles chart[25]
1947
1949

1950s[edit]

1952
1954
1957
1958
1959

1960s[edit]

1960
1961
1963
1964
1965
1966
1967
1968

1970s[edit]

1971
1972
  • Keith Lamb with a reggae version with his band Hush in December 1972 (EPW 263) for Warner for an EP entitled Hush Power
1975
1978
1979

1980s[edit]

1980
1981
1984
1985
  • The Canadian Brass with an instrumental version for the album, A Canadian Brass Christmas
1989

1990s[edit]

1990
1992
1993
1994
1995
1998
1999

2000s[edit]

2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
  • Rascal Flatts, as a bonus track on a limited-edition version of the album Greatest Hits Volume 1
  • Neil Sedaka on his album The Miracle of Christmas
  • Al Jarreau on his album Christmas
  • Edyta Górniak on her album, Zakochaj się na Święta w kolędach (Fall in love for Christmas in carols), with Polish/English lyrics
  • Italian singer Irene Grandi with an Italian version titled "Bianco Natale", for her Christmas album, Canzoni per Natale
  • Katy Perry on the compilation album Winter Songs[40]
2009

2010–present[edit]

2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.pjstar.com/article/20141031/Entertainment/141039841
  2. ^ a b Guinness Book of Records, 2007 Edition, page 187
  3. ^ Guinness Book of Records, 2008 Edition, page 181
  4. ^ a b Guinness Book of Records, 2009 Edition, pages 14, 15 & 169
  5. ^ a b c d Roy J. Harris, Jr. (December 5, 2009). "The Best-Selling Record of All. 'White Christmas' and the reasons it endures". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-12-06. It was a peaceful song that became a wartime classic. Its unorthodox, melancholy melody, and mere 54 words, expressing the simple yearning for a return to happier times—sounded instantly familiar when sung by America's favorite crooner. But 67 years after its introduction, some still are surprised to learn that Bing Crosby's recording of the Irving Berlin ballad "White Christmas" became not only the runaway smash-hit for the World War II holidays, but the best-selling record of all time. 
  6. ^ "History of ""The Jewel of the Desert"" | Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel". Arizonabiltmore.com. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  7. ^ a b c White Christmas
  8. ^ a b c d e John Mueller (1986). Astaire Dancing - The Musical Films. London: Hamish Hamilton. pp. 204, 425. ISBN 0-241-11749-6. 
  9. ^ Wook Kim (Dec 17, 2012). "Yule Laugh, Yule Cry: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Beloved Holiday Songs (With holiday cheer in the air, TIME takes a closer look at some of the weird stories behind our favorite seasonal tunes)". TIME.  - "White Christmas" (p. 6)
  10. ^ https://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/no-one-dreamed-of-a-white-christmas-before-this-song/
  11. ^ Todd Decker. "Crosby, Bing." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 26 Sep. 2016.
  12. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 139. 
  13. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 134. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  14. ^ Bing Crosby: Crooner of the Century - By Richard Grudens
  15. ^ Billboard 15 Dec 1945 - "Bing Crosby – White Christmas / Let's Start The New Year Right" 10" single, (Decca - 18429)
  16. ^ Complete UK Hit Singles - 1952-2006, Graham Betts, Collins, 2006 - Music - 1088 pages - ("White Christmas" 1998 UK CD single)
  17. ^ "RIAA News Room - The American Recording Industry Announces its Artists of the Century - Nov 10, 1999". Recording Industry Association of America website. RIAA. 1999-11-10. Retrieved 2010-02-08. 
  18. ^ Guinness Book of Records 2009 states that "Candle in the Wind 1997" is the "best-selling single since charts began"; however, not of all time. Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" is still recognized as the best selling single of all time, but since it was released prior to the start of many charts, its sales prior to the 1950s are estimated. John's 1997 song has sold the most copies when looking at copies sold since charts began, as verified in Guinness World Records. ISBN 1-904994-37-7.  See also: Guinness Book of Records, 2009 Edition, pages 14, 15 & 169 [1]
  19. ^ "New song list puts 'Rainbow' way up high". CNN. March 7, 2001. 
  20. ^ Todd, Olivier (1990), Cruel April: The Fall of Saigon, W.W. Norton & Company, p. 353 . For more information, see Fall of Saigon, the end of the Vietnam War.
  21. ^ White Christmas piano solo, Hal Leonard
  22. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  23. ^ "ASCAP Announces Top 25 Holiday Songs of the Decade". ASCAP. November 23, 2009. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  24. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 42. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  25. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 59. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  26. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 47. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  27. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 58. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  28. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 41. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  29. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 29. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  30. ^ "Columbia (Microphone label, USA) 37500 to 38000 Numerical Listing". 78discography.com. Retrieved 2016-01-02. 
  31. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 55. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  32. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 62. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  33. ^ RCA Victor Records in the 20-4500 to 20-4999 series
  34. ^ CD sleeve: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits (1955 – Present), 1989 Rhino Records Inc.
  35. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 22. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  36. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 23. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  37. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 48. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  38. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 49. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  39. ^ laut.de | Twisted Sister - "A Twisted Christmas" (CD-Kritik)
  40. ^ "Winter Songs by Various Artists on Apple Music". iTunes. Retrieved 5 December 2017. 
  41. ^ "White Christmas-bianco Natale" on acharts.com
  42. ^ "Italian Charts - Marco Mengoni - White Christmas (song)". Italiancharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  43. ^ "White Christmas by Kelly Clarkson" (in German). Germany: Amazon.de. Retrieved October 7, 2013. 
  44. ^ "Donna Burke | White Christmas". CD Baby. Retrieved December 29, 2015. 
  45. ^ The Hot Sardines
  46. ^ "White Christmas - single". iTunes Australia. Retrieved 16 August 2017. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"(I've Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo"
by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra with vocal refrain by Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton and the Modernaires
The Billboard National Best Selling Retail Records number-one single
(Bing Crosby version)

October 31, 1942 – January 9, 1943 (11 weeks)
Succeeded by
"There Are Such Things"
by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra with vocal refrain by Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers
Preceded by
"Mr. Five by Five"
by Freddie Slack and His Orchestra with vocal by Ella Mae Morse
The Billboard Harlem Hit Parade number-one single
(Bing Crosby version)

December 19, 1942 – January 2, 1943 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"When the Lights Go on Again (All Over the World)"
by Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra with vocal chorus by Trevor Bacon