Sleigh Ride

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"Sleigh Ride"
Song
LanguageEnglish
Published1948 (1948)[1] by Mills Music
GenreLight
Composer(s)Leroy Anderson
Lyricist(s)Mitchell Parish

"Sleigh Ride" performed instrumentally by the United States Navy Band in December 2012

"Sleigh Ride" is a light orchestra standard whose music was composed by Leroy Anderson. The composer had formed the original idea for the piece during a heat wave in July 1946, and he finished the work in February 1948. The original recordings were instrumental versions. The lyrics, about riding in a sleigh and other fun wintertime activities, were written by Mitchell Parish in 1950.[2]

The orchestral version was first recorded in 1949 by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra.[3] "Sleigh Ride" was a hit record on RCA Victor Red Seal 49-0515 (45 rpm) / 10-1484 (78 rpm), and has become one of the orchestra's signature songs. The 45 rpm version was originally issued on red vinyl. The Pops have also recorded the song with John Williams, their conductor from 1979 to 1995, and Keith Lockhart, their current conductor.

The Ronettes recorded a cover of "Sleigh Ride" in 1963 for Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift for You, which was commercially successful in the United States and featured in various media. American singer and songwriter Gwen Stefani recorded a cover in October 2020 for the reissued deluxe edition of her fourth studio album, You Make It Feel Like Christmas (2017).

Details[edit]

"American Homestead, Winter," a lithograph by Currier and Ives, 1867. The song's lyrics refer to a "picture print by Currier and Ives," whose lithographs were popular in the 19th century.
"Sleigh Ride" performed instrumentally by the United States Navy Band in December 2012

Leroy Anderson's own 1950 recording of "Sleigh Ride" on Decca 9-16000 (45 rpm) and 16000 (78 rpm) reached Cashbox magazine's bestsellers chart when re-released in 1952.

The main melody of "Sleigh Ride" was used, but without crediting Anderson, as the main theme of Victor Young's score for the 1949 western Streets of Laredo. Mitchell Parish worked with Young at this approximate time, writing the lyrics for Young's version of Hoagy Carmichael's previously instrumental "Stardust." In 1950, The Andrews Sisters recorded the first vocal version of "Sleigh Ride," using the lyrics Parish had written.

Although "Sleigh Ride" is often associated with Christmas and appears on Christmas compilation albums, its lyrics do not mention any holidays. (Certain recordings, such as those by the Carpenters, Walter Schumann, and Air Supply, substitute "Christmas party" instead of "birthday party" in the song's bridge.) The song is noted for the sounds of a horse clip-clopping, and a whip used to get the horse moving. In most performances, a percussionist provides these sounds on temple blocks and a slapstick (or occasionally, drum rim shots), respectively. Toward the end of the piece, a trumpet imitates the sound of a horse whinnying.

According to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) review of Christmas music, "Sleigh Ride" consistently ranks as one of the top 10 most-performed songs written by ASCAP members.[4] ASCAP named "Sleigh Ride" the most popular piece of Christmas music in the U.S. in 2009–2012, based on performance data from over 2,500 radio stations. Anderson's recording remains the most popular instrumental version, while Johnny Mathis's has become the most popular vocal version.[5]

In his book Leroy Anderson: A Bio-Bibliography [Praeger 2004], Steve Metcalf says "'Sleigh Ride' ... has been performed and recorded by a wider array of musical artists than any other piece in the history of Western music."

"Sleigh Ride" is in seven-part rondo form.[6] The first rondo episode utilizes an unusual, unprepared modulation to the mediant, then the supertonic. The difficulty of singing this section[citation needed] has caused several recordings to alter the harmonies or omit this section altogether, as in Phil Spector's production of the Ronettes's version.

The Ronettes version[edit]

"Sleigh Ride"
Single by the Ronettes
from the album A Christmas Gift for You
ReleasedNovember 22, 1963 (1963-11-22)
Recorded1963
GenreChristmas
Length3:01
LabelPhilles

"Sleigh Ride" was covered by the American girl group the Ronettes. The Phil Spector-produced recording has become the most popular version outside the traditional pop standard genre, charting yearly in Billboard's Top Ten U.S. Holiday 100 and was #26 in 2018 in the Hot 100.[7] After achieving a new peak of #21 in 2020, it became the group's second-highest chart hit in the US after "Be My Baby". It features the well-known "Ring-a-ling-a-ling, ding-dong-ding" background vocals, and the clip-clop and whinny of a horse at its beginning and end. Both Bridge sections were omitted from this version, leaving only the refrains intact.

In media[edit]

The song was also featured in the episode Holidays of Future Passed from the American comedy The Simpsons, during a scene involving a compilation of Christmas cards.[8][9]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1963–2020) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[10] 29
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[11] 17
Czech Republic (Singles Digitál Top 100)[12] 30
France (SNEP)[13] 175
Germany (Official German Charts)[14] 55
Global 200 (Billboard)[15] 24
Hungary (Stream Top 40)[16] 13
Ireland (IRMA)[17] 31
Italy (FIMI)[18] 67
Latvia (LAIPA)[19] 21
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[20] 16
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[21] 22
Portugal (AFP)[22] 28
Scotland (OCC)[23] 65
Slovakia (Singles Digitál Top 100)[24] 23
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[25] 50
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[26] 30
UK Singles (OCC)[27] 33
US Billboard Hot 100[28] 13
US Holiday 100 (Billboard)[29] 10
US Rolling Stone Top 100[30] 10

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[31] Gold 45,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[32] Gold 400,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Gwen Stefani version[edit]

"Sleigh Ride"
On a red background, American singer and songwriter Gwen Stefani appears wearing a large, red bow atop her head with both of her hands holding up her head; above her is the name of the song in a white, cursive font.
Promotional single by Gwen Stefani
from the album You Make It Feel Like Christmas
ReleasedOctober 13, 2020 (2020-10-13)
Recorded2020
GenreChristmas
Length2:33
LabelInterscope
Composer(s)
  • Leroy Anderson
  • Mitchell Parish
Producer(s)

Background and release[edit]

Stefani released her fourth studio album, You Make It Feel Like Christmas through Interscope Records, on October 6, 2017, a collection of six original songs and six cover versions of Christmas standards.[33] The album was preceded by the release of lead single "You Make It Feel Like Christmas", a duet with her boyfriend, American singer Blake Shelton.[34] According to Stefani, the album's initial release generated a positive response, allowing her to return to the studio with collaborators busbee and Justin Tranter.[35][36] The following year, You Make It Feel Like Christmas was reissued with five new bonus tracks and a proper music video for the title track was released.[37][38]

In 2019, Stefani duetted with Shelton again on "Nobody but You", a new track recorded for his compilation album, Fully Loaded: God's Country.[39] The song was released as a single and distributed to US country radio outlets on January 21, 2020.[40] It became a hit, topping Billboard's Country Airplay and Digital Songs charts and becoming Stefani's highest-charting effort on the Billboard Hot 100 since 2007.[41][42][43] In late 2020, rumors of new solo music from Stefani circulated after it was announced she would be returning as a judge to the American television series The Voice.[44] Stefani then confirmed plans to release new music during a promotional advertisement made for the show.[45] Her cover of "Sleigh Ride" was announced as a surprise to her fans on October 12, 2020, the day before its scheduled release. It is expected to appear as the eighteenth track on an upcoming reissue of You Make It Feel Like Christmas, due for release later in 2020.[46]

"Sleigh Ride" was produced by American musicians Brent Kutzle and Brandon Collins.[46] It is the first track from You Make It Feel Like Christmas that was not produced by busbee or Eric Valentine; busbee had previously co-written all of the original songs on the parent album with Stefani and Tranter, but passed away in September 2019 after a battle with glioblastoma.[47][48] Stefani's cover of "Sleigh Ride" credits Anderson and Parish as composers.[49] The song was released to music retailers for digital download and streaming on October 13, 2020 through Interscope Records.[50] A promotional audio video of the song was uploaded to Stefani's YouTube channel the same day of its release.[51] It serves as first solo release since the rest of You Make It Feel Like Christmas.[52] Alongside the release of "Sleigh Ride", Stefani teased that there was "more to come" the following week.[53]

Composition[edit]

Stefani's version of "Sleigh Ride" has been described as a holiday-themed song with a "lushly"-arranged orchestra.[52] American musician Ryan Tedder who, along with Kutzle, is a founding member of the band OneRepublic, contributes as a vocal producer of the song, and Stefani is accompanied by American singer Laura Cooksey for background vocals. The song uses various forms of instrumentation in its production, and was supported by orchestral arrangements; Kutzle and Grant Pittman play keyboards, Luke Sullivant performs on both acoustic guitar and electric guitar, Matt Melton plays bass, Paul Nelson plays the cello, Jon Hyrkas plays drums, and Collins is credited as the song's strings contractor. Violinists David Angell, David Davidson, and Betsy Lamb also perform, and Lamb additionally contributes to the track on viola.[49]

Critical reception[edit]

Sophie Smith from the entertainment website uDiscover Music was positive about Stefani's cover, calling it a "cheery" and "festive" new track.[52] A contributor to WSRW felt that Stefani got "in the holiday spirit" with her cover, but felt that it was released too early before the holiday season.[53]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from AllMusic.[49]

  • Gwen Stefani – primary artist
  • Brandon Collins – producer, strings contractor
  • Brent Kutzle – producer, keyboards
  • Leroy Anderson – composer
  • Mitchell Parish – composer
  • Ryan Tedder – vocal producer
  • John Nathaniel – vocal producer, mixing
  • Grant Pittman – engineer, keyboards
  • Doug Sarrett – engineer
  • Tyler Spry – engineer
  • Mike Wilson – engineer
  • Chris Gehringer – mastering engineer
  • Laura Cooksey – background vocals
  • Luke Sullivant – acoustic guitar, electric guitar
  • Matt Melton – bass
  • Paul Nelson – cello
  • Jon Hyrkas – drums
  • Betsy Lamb – viola, violin
  • David Angell – violin
  • David Davidson – violin

Charts[edit]

Chart performance for "Sleigh Ride"
Chart (2020) Peak
position
US Holiday Digital Song Sales (Billboard)[54] 6

Release history[edit]

Release dates and formats for "Sleigh Ride"
Region Date Format(s) Label Ref.
Various October 13, 2020 Interscope [50]

Other recordings[edit]

Mariah Carey version[edit]

"Sleigh Ride"
Song by Mariah Carey
from the album Mariah Carey's Magical Christmas Special (Apple TV+ Original Soundtrack)
ReleasedDecember 4, 2020 (2020-12-04)
Recorded2020
GenreChristmas
Length2:39
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)

In 2020, American singer-songwriter Mariah Carey recorded a cover of "Sleigh Ride" for her second soundtrack album, Mariah Carey's Magical Christmas Special (2020).

Charts[edit]

Chart (2020) Peak
position
Hungary (Single Top 40)[60] 25
US R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Songs (Billboard)[61] 25

Ella Fitzgerald version[edit]

Chart (2020) Peak
position
Portugal (AFP)[62] 162

Classical "Sleigh Ride" pieces[edit]

"Die Schlittenfahrt" ("Sleigh Ride") is also the popular name of one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Three German Dances. It is sometimes mistakenly attributed to Wolfgang's father, Leopold Mozart, whose own Divertimento in F major is popularly known as "Musical Sleigh Ride".[citation needed]

The "Winter Night" segment of Frederick Delius's Three Small Tonepoems is also commonly known as "Sleigh Ride".[citation needed]

The "Troika" movement of Lieutenant Kijé by Sergei Prokofiev is also a musical sleigh ride, referring to a three-horse team drawing a carriage (troika means "group of three"). Christmas carol expert William Studwell wrote that Prokofiev's work was "even better" than "Sleigh Ride", having a more "exhilarating" style and imagery.[63]

"Caribbean Sleigh Ride" is a work for symphony orchestra by Robert Wendel in the style of a fast Latin merengue.[citation needed]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]