Sleigh Ride

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"Sleigh Ride"
Published1948 (1948)[1] by Mills Music
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 composed by Leroy Anderson. The composer had the original idea for the piece during a heat wave in July 1946 and 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.


"American Homestead, Winter", 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 (with no credit for Anderson) as the main theme of Victor Young's score for the 1949 western Streets of Laredo. Mitchell Parish worked with Young around this 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 written by Parish.

Although "Sleigh Ride" is often associated with Christmas and appears on Christmas compilation albums, its lyrics mention no holiday (apart from certain recordings, such as those by the Carpenters, Walter Schumann and Air Supply, that substitute "Christmas party" for "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[citation needed] has caused several recordings to alter the harmonies or omit this section altogether, as in the Phil Spector / Ronettes 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)

"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.

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]


Chart (1963–2019) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[10] 29
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[11] 47
Czech Republic (Singles Digitál Top 100)[12] 30
France (SNEP)[13] 175
Germany (Official German Charts)[14] 75
Hungary (Stream Top 40)[15] 17
Ireland (IRMA)[16] 41
Italy (FIMI)[17] 67
Latvia (LAIPA)[18] 21
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[19] 28
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[20] 22
Portugal (AFP)[21] 42
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[22] 65
Slovakia (Singles Digitál Top 100)[23] 23
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[24] 65
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[25] 35
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[26] 34
US Billboard Hot 100[27] 21
US Holiday 100 (Billboard)[28] 10
US Rolling Stone Top 100[29] 10

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[30] Silver 200,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Other notable recordings[edit]

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".

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

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.[34]

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


  1. ^ Leroy Anderson: A Bio-Bibliograph, Praeger 2004, chapter 2 – Works, pages 25–81.
  2. ^ Christmas in New England, Commonwealth Editions 2006, pages 116-121
  3. ^ Leroy Anderson: A Bio-Bibliography, Praeger 2004, chapter 2 - Works, pages 25-81.
  4. ^ ASCAP Announces Top 25 Holiday Songs – "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting ...)" Tops List
  5. ^ "ASCAP Members Reign Over Top Ten Most-Played Holiday Songs List". ASCAP.
  6. ^ Wieland, William. "Listen for Form Answer Key". Northern State University. Retrieved December 19, 2015.
  7. ^ "The Ronettes Sleigh Ride Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-01-05.
  8. ^ "The Simpsons (TV Series) Holidays of Future Passed (2011) Soundtracks". IMDB. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  9. ^ "Holidays Of Future Passed Soundtrack". Tunefind. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  10. ^ "ARIA Australian Top 50 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association. December 30, 2019. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  11. ^ "The Ronettes Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  12. ^ "ČNS IFPI" (in Czech). Hitparáda – Digital Top 100 Oficiální. IFPI Czech Republic. Note: Change the chart to CZ – SINGLES DIGITAL – TOP 100 and insert 201851 into search. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  13. ^ "Top Singles (téléchargement + streaming)". Syndicat National de l'édition Phonographique. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  14. ^ " – The Ronettes – Sleigh Ride". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  15. ^ "Archívum – Slágerlisták – MAHASZ" (in Hungarian). Stream Top 40 slágerlista. Magyar Hanglemezkiadók Szövetsége. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  16. ^ "Official Irish Singles Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  17. ^ "Top Singoli – Classifica settimanale WK 52" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  18. ^ "Mūzikas patēriņa tops gadu mijā" (in Latvian). LAIPA. Archived from the original on October 10, 2019. Retrieved November 28, 2019.
  19. ^ " – The Ronettes – Sleigh Ride" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  20. ^ "NZ Top 40 Singles Chart". Recorded Music NZ. December 31, 2018. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  21. ^ " – The Ronettes – Sleigh Ride". AFP Top 100 Singles. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  22. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 21, 2019.
  23. ^ "ČNS IFPI" (in Slovak). Hitparáda – Singles Digital Top 100 Oficiálna. IFPI Czech Republic. Note: Select SINGLES DIGITAL - TOP 100 and insert 201851 into search. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  24. ^ " – The Ronettes – Sleigh Ride". Singles Top 100. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  25. ^ " – The Ronettes – Sleigh Ride". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  26. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  27. ^ "The Ronettes Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  28. ^ "Michael Buble Chart History (Holiday 100)". Billboard. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  29. ^ "Top 100 Songs". Rolling Stone. December 24, 2019. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  30. ^ "British single certifications – Ronettes – Sleigh Ride". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved January 15, 2019. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Sleigh Ride in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  31. ^ a b c d e f "Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson: Complete reference". Woodbury Music Company LLC 06798. Archived from the original on 6 December 2019. Retrieved 7 December 2019. [1.] Boston Pops Orchestra, Arthur Fiedler, 1949, Naxos 8120649 [2.]Boston Pops Orchestra, Arthur Fiedler, 1959, RCA 144665, RCA 61237, RCA 61685 [3.]Boston Pops Orchestra, Arthur Fiedler, 1976, DG 419414 [4.]Boston Pops Orchestra, John Williams, 1992, Sony 48232 [5.]Boston Pops Orchestra, Keith Lockhart, 2004, Boston Pops Recordings 2 [6].Boston Pops Orchestra, Keith Lockhart, 2011, BSO Classics1305
  32. ^ "Sleigh Ride Boston Pops Orchestra, Arthur Fiedler". Presto Classical Limited. Archived from the original on 7 December 2019. Retrieved 8 December 2019. Fiedler and his Boston Pops Orchestra... made several recordings for Polydor / Deutsche Grammophon... [Among them was:] Anderson['s] Sleigh Ride, Recorded: 1970-02 Recording Venue: Symphony Hall, Boston
  33. ^ "Holiday Pops". Presto Classical Limited. Archived from the original on 8 December 2019. Retrieved 8 December 2019. Anderson, Leroy: Sleigh Ride: Keith Lockhart, John Oliver, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Boston Pops Orchestra... Release Date: 29th Sep 1998.
  34. ^ Studwell, William (1995). The Christmas Carol Reader. Psychology Press. p. 131. ISBN 9781560249740.

External links[edit]