Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town

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Sleeve of the Carpenters' 1974 cover of the Gillespie and Coots standard

"Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town"[1] is a Christmas song, 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 version for Bluebird Records by George Hall and His Orchestra (vocal by Sonny Schuyler) was very popular in 1934 and reached the various charts of the day.[4] The song has been recorded by over 200 artists, including Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters, The Crystals, Mariah Carey, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra, Chris Isaak , Michael Buble and The Jackson 5 .[5]

Melody and lyrics[edit]

Haven Gillespie's lyrics begin "You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry / You'd better not pout, I'm telling you why / Santa Claus is coming to town".

Cantor's original performance, broadcast at the height of the Great Depression included verses not in the standard version of the song, encouraging listeners to be charitable and help the less-fortunate at Christmas.[citation needed]


The earliest known recorded version of the song was by banjoist Harry Reser and his band on October 24, 1934 (Decca 264A)[6] 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 for Victor Records (catalog No. 25145A) on September 26, 1935 by Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra with vocals by Cliff Weston and Edythe Wright.[7]

The song is a traditional Christmas standard and has been covered by numerous recording artists. Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters reached the Billboard charts briefly in 1947[8] with it.

1950s and 1960s[edit]

In 1963 the Four Seasons version charted at number 23 on Billboard.[citation needed] Also in 1963 producer Phil Spector included a version of the song on his rock album "A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector" performed by The Crystals.[9] 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.[citation needed]

1970s to 1990s[edit]

In 1970 The Jackson 5 included the song on their best-selling album Jackson 5 Christmas Album. The Carpenters released the song as a single in 1974. A rock version by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band inspired by the Crystals 1963 version, 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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] Other well-known versions of this song include Mariah Carey from the album Merry Christmas (1994).[12]

2000 and after[edit]

Luis Miguel recorded the song in Spanish as "Santa Claus Llegó a La Ciudad" for his Christmas album Navidades (2006).[13] His version of the song peaked at number 26 on the Billboard Latin Pop Songs chart.[14]

A capella group Pentatonix covered the song in their 2014 album That's Christmas to Me.[15]

In October 2015, EMI Music Publishing lost the rights to J. Fred Coot's stake in the song. EMI had earned the rights to the song via Leo Feist's publishing company in the 1980s.[16]

In September 2017, the family of Haven Gillespie sued Memory Lane Music Group for $700 thousand, asking for an 85% stake in "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town".[17]


  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. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 189. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  5. ^ The Richest Songs in The World (Television production). BBC. 2012.
  6. ^ "The Online Discographical Project". Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  7. ^ "The Online Discographical Project". Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 113. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits: Eighth Edition. Record Research. p. 237.
  10. ^ Times, Music (20 December 2013). "12 Days of Christmas: 4 Best Versions of 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town'".
  11. ^ "The Greatest Rock Roll Christmas Songs Pictures - Bruce Springsteen, 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town'". Rolling Stone. 2007-12-19. Retrieved 2013-12-22.
  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. ^ "Navidades - Luis Miguel: Overview". AllMusic / Rovi. Retrieved 2013-05-14.
  14. ^ "Navidades - Luis Miguel: Awards". AllMusic / Rovi. Retrieved 2013-05-14.
  15. ^ "Pentatonix's 10 Best Christmas Songs". Billboard. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  16. ^
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