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White Christmas Christmas Song

White Christmas

Year: 1940

Written By: Irving Berlin

"Grab your pen and take down this song," Irving Berlin told his secretary one night in 1940. "I just wrote the best song I've ever written- heck I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written!" And so, legend has it, this is how Berlin's holiday classic White Christmas came about.

Russian born Irving Berlin is regarded by many as one of America's greatest ever songwriters. His list of hits is full of timeless classics including There's No Business Like Show Business, Puttin' on the Ritz and God Bless America.

Berlin was commissioned to write a series of songs for the 1942 film Holiday Inn; one tune for each of the major holidays in the year. As a Jewish composer, Berlin initially struggled to pen a song about Christmas. He was eventually inspired by his own childhood memories of watching snowy holiday celebrations in New York and Los Angeles.  The lyrics capture a sense of Berlin's own reminiscing. The opening lines conjure up images of a snowy Manhattan holiday:"I'm dreaming of a white ChristmasJust like the ones I used to knowWhere treetops glistenAnd children listenTo hear sleigh bells in the snow."whilst Berlin's experiences in California can be heard in a verse cut from the original draft:The sun is shining, the grass is green,The orange and palm trees sway.There's never been such a dayin Beverly Hills, L.A.But it's December the twenty-fourthAnd I am longing to be up North  

When the star of Holiday Inn, Bing Crosby first heard the song, he knew Berlin was onto a winner. But no-one could have predicted just how big the song would become. The first public performance came on Christmas Day in 1941 when Crosby presented White Christmas on his radio show, The Kraft Music Hall. The following year he recorded the track for Decca Records and it was released as part of the Holiday Inn soundtrack. By the end of 1942 it was sitting firmly on top of the Harlem Hit Parade, Billboard and Your Hit Parade charts, where it stayed from October through to the beginning of the new year.

White Christmas was to receive yet another honour that year, with the tune garnering the Academy Award for Best Original Song. So popular was Bing Crosby's release, that the film script was changed to accommodate his performance. The initial script for Holiday Inn had actress Marjorie Reynolds performing the song alone. It was quickly changed to a duet however, with the scene now a well-known one in film history. 

Today, White Christmas appears in record books across the globe. It is estimated that Crosby's single sold more than 50 million copies worldwide, although as the song was released before modern day chart systems, this number is still heavily debated. This whopping figure- in addition to a further 50 million copies of the recording sold as a part of various albums- makes Bing Crosby's White Christmas the highest selling single of all time. 

So what makes a simple Christmas song so popular? White Christmas was released in the midst of World War II and seemed to strike a chord amongst a population dreaming of better times. The song conjures up a number of warm, comforting images of home but at the same time carries an air of melancholy, particularly in the line "just like the ones I used to know." The song became the number one request on the Armed Forces Network among soldiers dreaming of a Christmas spent with loved ones.

Since its release nearly seventy years ago, White Christmas has become a favourite amongst cover artists, carollers and partygoers alike. Whether celebrating in sun or snow, people all around the world are sure to be dreaming of a white Christmas for many years to come.

 

White Christmas Lyrics

I'm dreaming of a white christmas,
just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
to hear sleigh bells in the snow

I'm dreaming of a white christmas,
just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
to hear sleigh bells in the snow

I'm dreaming of a white christmas,
with every christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright,
and may all your christmases be white

I'm dreaming of a white christmas,
just like the ones I used to know
May your days be merry and bright,
and may all your christmases be white

I'm dreaming of a white christmas,
with every christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright,
and may all your christmases be white

May your days be merry and bright,
and may all your christmases be white

And may all your christmases be white (All your christmases be white)
And may all your christmases be white (All your christmases be white)
And may all your christmases be
(All your christmases be white)
(All your christmases be white)

 

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