Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town

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"Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town"[1] is a Christmas song. It was written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie and was first sung on Eddie Cantor's radio show in November 1934. It became an instant hit with orders for 500,000 copies of sheet music and more than 30,000 records sold within 24 hours.[2][3] The song has been covered by over 200 artists, including The Crystals, Mariah Carey, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra and The Jackson 5.[4]


The earliest known recorded version of the song was by banjoist Harry Reser and his band on October 24, 1934 (Decca 264A) featuring Tom Stacks on vocal, the version shown in the Variety charts of December 1934. The song was a sheet music hit, reaching number 1. The song was also recorded on September 26, 1935, by Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra.[citation needed]

The song is a traditional Christmas standard and has been covered by numerous recording artists. The 1951 version by Perry Como was the first measurable hit; Gene Autry, the country-western artist, recorded a Christmas album with this title and featuring the song in 1953; and in 1963 the Four Seasons version charted at number 23 on Billboard.[5] In 1970 Rankin-Bass produced Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, an hour-long animated TV film based on the song, with Fred Astaire narrating the origin of Santa Claus. In 1970 Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5 delivered a chart-topping Motown arrangement, and many other contemporary artists have recorded and performed various versions of the song.

A rock version by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band was recorded live at C. W. Post College in Brookville, New York on December 12, 1975. This live version borrows the Chorus refrain from the 1963 version by The Crystals.[6] This version was eventually released first in 1982 as part of the Sesame Street compilation album In Harmony 2, and again in 1985 as a B-side to "My Hometown", a single from the Born in the U.S.A. album.[7] Springsteen's rendition of the song has received radio airplay perennially at Christmastime for years; it appeared on Billboard magazine's Hot Singles Recurrents chart each year from 2002 to 2009 due to seasonal air play.

Live performances of the song often saw the band encouraging the audience to sing some of the lyrics with—or in place of—the band's vocalists (usually the line "you'd better be good for goodness sake", and occasionally the key line "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" as well). Sometimes, concert crowds would sing along with the entire song, and the band would do nothing to dissuade those audiences from doing so. This version remains a Springsteen concert favorite during the months of November and December, and the band is among the few that keep it in their roster of songs during the holidays.

Luis Miguel recorded the song in Spanish as "Santa Claus Llegó a La Ciudad" for his Christmas album Navidades (2006).[8] His version of the song peaked at number 26 on the Billboard Latin Pop Songs chart.[9]

Other well-known versions of this song include:

In popular culture[edit]

"Battleground" - The song is used to ironic effect where it's sung by a soldier chopping up camouflage cover during a blizzard.

"A Christmas Story" - The song can be heard playing faintly over the radio set during the scene where the Parker family is decorating their Christmas tree. It is playing again when Ralphie opens his present from Aunt Clara.

"Elf" - After Santa's sleigh crashes in Central Park, Jovie leads the gathering crowd in singing the song to create enough Christmas spirit to power the sleigh back up and help it start flying again. This proves successful after Michael convinces Walter to sing along.

"The Polar Express" - The song plays through the North Pole City speakers when Santa Claus arrives. It begins playing in slow-motion when the bell breaks loose from the reindeer harness and ends when the Hero Boy retrieves it.


  1. ^ "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town Composed by Haven Gillespie / J. Fred Coots". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 August 2014. 
  2. ^ Collins, Ace (2010-10-05). Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas. ISBN 9780310597476. Retrieved 20 August 2014. 
  3. ^ Collins, Ace (5 October 2010). "4 Santa Claus Is Coming to Town". Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas. Zondervan. p. 224. ISBN 0310327954. Retrieved 20 August 2014. 
  4. ^ The Richest Songs in The World (Television production). BBC. 2012. 
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits: Eighth Edition. Record Research. p. 237. 
  6. ^ Times, Music (20 December 2013). "12 Days of Christmas: 4 Best Versions of 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town'". 
  7. ^ "The Greatest Rock Roll Christmas Songs Pictures - Bruce Springsteen, 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town'". Rolling Stone. 2007-12-19. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  8. ^ "Navidades - Luis Miguel: Overview". AllMusic / Rovi. Retrieved 2013-05-14. 
  9. ^ "Navidades - Luis Miguel: Awards". AllMusic / Rovi. Retrieved 2013-05-14. 
  10. ^ Chery, Carl: XXL: Michael Jackson Special Collectors Edition, page 99. American Press.
  11. ^ "Bruce Springsteen - My Hometown". 
  12. ^ Trust, Gary (2013-04-02). "Ask Billboard: Belinda's Back, JT Too, Mariah Carey's Album Sales & More". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 2013-05-11. 
  13. ^ Colbie Caillat Christmas In the Sand album on
  14. ^ "Richard Marx and Sara Niemietz - Santa Claus Is Coming to Town". Richard Marx YouTube Channel. 20 August 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2014. 
  15. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (20 August 2014). "Richard Marx Christmas Spirit". All Music. Retrieved 20 August 2014. 
  16. ^ Video on YouTube
  17. ^ Copsey, Robert. "Dannii Minogue, Ronan Keating Unveil Christmas Duet - Listen". DigitalSpy. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 

External links[edit]