Johnny Marks

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Johnny Marks
John David Marks

(1909-11-10)November 10, 1909
DiedSeptember 3, 1985(1985-09-03) (aged 75)
  • Songwriter
  • composer
SpouseMargaret May
Military career
Service/branchUnited States Army
Unit26th Special Service Company
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsBronze Star Medal

John David Marks (November 10, 1909 – September 3, 1985) was an American songwriter. He specialized in Christmas songs (although he himself was Jewish[1] and did not celebrate Christmas[2]) 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), and "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" (introduced by Bing Crosby). He is also credited with writing "Run Rudolph Run" (recorded by Chuck Berry) but this is due to his trademark of the Rudolph character, rather than any input in the writing of the song.

Personal life[edit]

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

Marks was the nephew of Marcus M. Marks (1858–1934), a business figure who served as Borough President of Manhattan. Johnny Marks's father, Louis B. Marks, was a lighting engineer. His wife, Margaret May Marks, was the sister of Robert L. May who wrote the original story of Rudolph.[3]

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]


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 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]

Marks appeared as an imposter on the December 11, 1961 episode of the game show To Tell The Truth. Impersonating the owner of a herd of reindeer, he did receive two of the four votes. After the true contestant was revealed, Marks identified himself as the composer of "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer".[citation needed]

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
From the 1976 ABC/Rankin-Bass TV Production Rudolph's Shiny New Year
  • The Moving Finger Writes – 1976
  • Turn Back The Years – 1976
  • It's Raining Sunshine – 1976
  • What A Wonderful World We Live In - 1976
  • Fourth Of July Parade - 1976
  • Have A Little Faith In Me - 1976
  • Have a Happy New Year - 1976


  • 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
  • We Speak of You Often
  • What've You Got to Lose But Your Heart
  • Who Calls?


  1. ^ "Jewish songwriters like Irving Berlin, Johnny Marks and Mel Torme wrote the score of modern Christmas". New York Daily News. 18 December 2011.
  2. ^ "Johnny Marks Has Made Millions Off 'Rudolph,' but the Songwriter Still Says Humbug |".
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Goldberg, Jeffrey (December 20, 2008) "Rudolph the Jewish-American Reindeer", The Atlantic. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  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. ^ 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". Archived from the original on 2010-01-15. Retrieved 2010-06-08.
  8. ^ The Tiny Tree at the Internet Movie Database
  9. ^ "The Tiny Tree - DePatie-Freling - 1975," YouTube

External links[edit]