Johnny Marks

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Johnny Marks
Birth nameJohn David Marks
Born(1909-11-10)November 10, 1909
Mount Vernon, New York
DiedSeptember 3, 1985(1985-09-03) (aged 75)
New York, New York
Occupation(s)Songwriter, composer

John David Marks (November 10, 1909 – September 3, 1985) was an American songwriter. Although he was Jewish,[1][2] he specialized in Christmas songs and wrote many holiday standards, including "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (a hit for Gene Autry and others), "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" (a hit for Brenda Lee), "A Holly Jolly Christmas" (recorded by the Quinto Sisters and later by Burl Ives), "Silver and Gold" (for Burl Ives), "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" (introduced by Bing Crosby), and "Run Rudolph Run" (recorded by Chuck Berry).

Personal life[edit]

Marks was born to a Jewish family[3] in Mount Vernon, New York.[4] A graduate of McBurney School in New York, NY, and Colgate and Columbia Universities, Marks later studied in Paris. He earned a Bronze Star and four Battle Stars as a Captain in the 26th Special Service Company during World War II. Marks had three children: Michael, Laura (d.2008) and David (d.2009). He is a great-uncle of economist Steven Levitt.[5]

Marks was the nephew of Marcus M. Marks (1858–1937), an important business figure who served as Borough President of Manhattan. Johnny Marks's father, Louis B. Marks, was a leading lighting engineer. His wife, Margaret May Marks, was the sister of Robert L. May who wrote the original story of Rudolph.[4]

He lived on West 11th Street in Greenwich Village and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City. He died on September 3, 1985, of complications from diabetes.[6] He was survived by his three children: Michael Marks, David Marks, and Laura Marks.[6]


Among Marks' many works is "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer", which was based on a poem of the same name, written by Marks' brother-in-law, Robert L. May, Rudolph's creator. A television film based on the story and song first aired in 1964, with Marks himself composing the score.

In addition to his songwriting, he founded St. Nicholas Music in 1949, and served as director of ASCAP from 1957 to 1961. In 1981, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[7]

Works (incomplete list)[edit]

Christmas songs[edit]

From the 1964 NBC/Rankin-Bass TV Production Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • A Holly Jolly Christmas – 1965 (separate single release), 1964-65**
  • Jingle, Jingle, Jingle – 1964
  • The Most Wonderful Day of the Year – 1964
  • Silver and Gold – 1964-65**
  • We Are Santa's Elves – 1964
  • There's Always Tomorrow - 1964
  • The Island of Misfit Toys - 1964
  • We're a Couple of Misfits - 1964

** Burl Ives released "A Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Silver and Gold," two songs he sang as his character Sam the Snowman, as singles for the 1965 holiday season, the year after the TV production.

From the 1975 DePatie-Freling TV Production The Tiny Tree[8][9]
  • To Love And Be Loved - 1975
  • When Autumn Comes - 1975
  • Tell It to a Turtle - 1975
  • A Caroling We Go - 1966
  • A Merry Merry Christmas To You - 1959
  • Joyous Christmas - 1969


  • Happy New Year Darling – 1946 (with J. Carmen Lombardo)
  • Address Unknown
  • Chicken Today and Feathers Tomorrow
  • Don't Cross Your Fingers, Cross Your Heart
  • Free
  • How Long Is Forever?
  • I Guess There's an End to Everything
  • Neglected
  • She'll Always Remember
  • Summer Holiday
  • There's Always Tomorrow
  • We Speak of You Often
  • What've You Got to Lose But Your Heart
  • Who Calls?


  1. ^ Bloom, Nate (2006-12-19). "The Jews Who Wrote Christmas Songs". InterfaithFamily. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
  2. ^ Ellen, Barbara (December 9, 2001). "Why a sad song says so much". The Guardian.
  3. ^ Bloom, Nate (December 22, 2014). "All those Holiday/Christmas Songs: So Many Jewish Songwriters!". Jewish World Review.
  4. ^ a b Bloom, Nate (2011-12-20). "Shining a Light on the Largely Untold Story of the Origins of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer". Retrieved 2011-12-22.
  5. ^ Dubner, Stephen J. (August 3, 2003). "The Probability That a Real-Estate Agent Is Cheating You (and Other Riddles of Modern Life)". The New York Times.
  6. ^ a b Holden, Stephen (September 4, 1985). "Johnny Marks Dies; Composed Hit Song, 'Rudolph,' in 1949". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Johnny Marks at the Songwriters Hall of Fame
  8. ^ The Tiny Tree at the Internet Movie Database
  9. ^ "The Tiny Tree - DePatie-Freling - 1975," YouTube