White Christmas (song)
1942 78 single release of "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby on Decca Records, 18429 A, with Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra and Chorus, Matrix # DLA 3009
|Single by Bing Crosby with Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra and Chorus|
|from the album Song Hits from Holiday Inn|
|Released||1942, 1945, 1950, 1955, 1983|
|Recorded||May 29, 1942
March 19, 1947
|Bing Crosby with Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra and Chorus singles chronology|
"White Christmas" is a 1942 Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. According to the Guinness World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 100 million copies worldwide. Other versions of the song, along with Crosby's, have sold over 150 million copies.
Accounts vary as to when and where Berlin wrote the song. One story is that he wrote it in 1940, in warm La Quinta, California, while staying at the La Quinta Hotel, a frequent Hollywood retreat also favored by writer-director-producer Frank Capra, although the Arizona Biltmore also claims the song was written there. He often stayed up all night writing—he told his secretary, "Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I've ever written—heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written!"
Bing Crosby version
The first public performance of the song was by Bing Crosby, on his NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall on Christmas Day, 1941; a copy of the recording from the radio program is owned by Crosby's estate and was loaned to CBS News Sunday Morning for their December 25, 2011, program. He subsequently recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers and Chorus for Decca Records in just 18 minutes on May 29, 1942, and it was released on July 30 as part of an album of six 78-rpm discs from the musical film Holiday Inn. At first, Crosby did not see anything special about the song. He just said "I don't think we have any problems with that one, Irving." The song established and solidified the fact that there could be commercially successful secular Christmas songs—in this case, written by a Jewish-American songwriter, who also wrote "God Bless America."
The song initially performed poorly and was overshadowed by Holiday Inn's first hit song: "Be Careful, It's My Heart". By the end of October 1942, "White Christmas" topped the Your Hit Parade chart. It remained in that position until well into the new year. It has often been noted that the mix of melancholy—"just like the ones I used to know"—with comforting images of home—"where the treetops glisten"—resonated especially strongly with listeners during World War II. A few weeks after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Crosby introduced “White Christmas” on a Christmas Day broadcast. The Armed Forces Network was flooded with requests for the song. The recording is noted for Crosby's whistling during the second chorus.
In 1942 alone, Crosby's recording spent eleven weeks on top of the Billboard charts. The original version also hit number one on the Harlem Hit Parade for three weeks, Crosby's first-ever appearance on the black-oriented chart. Re-released by Decca, the single returned to the No. 1 spot during the holiday seasons of 1945 and 1946 (on the chart dated January 4, 1947), thus becoming the only single with three separate runs at the top of the U.S. charts. The recording became a chart perennial, reappearing annually on the pop chart twenty separate times before Billboard magazine created a distinct Christmas chart for seasonal releases.
In Holiday Inn, the composition won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1942. In the film, Crosby sings "White Christmas" as a duet with actress Marjorie Reynolds, though her voice was dubbed by Martha Mears. This now-familiar scene was not the moviemakers' initial plan. In the script as originally conceived, Reynolds, not Crosby, would sing the song. The song would feature in another Crosby film, the 1954 musical White Christmas, which became the highest-grossing film of 1954. (Crosby made yet another studio recording of the song, accompanied by Joseph J. Lilley's orchestra and chorus, for the film's soundtrack album.)
The version most often heard today on radio during the Christmas season is the 1947 re-recording. The 1942 master was damaged due to frequent use. Crosby re-recorded the track on March 19, 1947, accompanied again by the Trotter Orchestra and the Darby Singers, with every effort made to reproduce the original recording session. The re-recording is recognizable by the addition of flutes and celesta in the beginning.
Crosby's "White Christmas" single has been credited with selling 50 million copies, the most by any release and therefore it is the biggest-selling single worldwide of all time. The Guinness Book of World Records 2009 Edition lists the song as a 100-million seller, encompassing all versions of the song, including albums. Crosby's holiday collection Merry Christmas was first released as an LP in 1949, and has never been out of print since.
There has been confusion and debate on whether Crosby's record is or is not the best-selling single, due to a lack of information on sales of "White Christmas," because Crosby's recording was released before the advent of the modern-day US and UK singles charts. However, after careful research, Guinness World Records in 2007 concluded that, worldwide, Crosby's recording of "White Christmas" has, in their estimation, sold at least 50 million copies, and that Elton John's recording of "Candle in the Wind 1997" has sold 33 million, making Crosby's recording the best-selling single of all time. However, an update in the 2009 edition of the book decided to further help settle the controversy amicably by naming both John's and Crosby's songs to be "winners" by stating that John's recording is the "best-selling single since UK and US singles charts began in the 1950s," while maintaining that "the best-selling single of all time was released before the first pop charts," and that this distinction belongs to "White Christmas," which it says "was listed as the world's best-selling single in the first-ever Guinness Book of Records (published in 1955) and—remarkably—still retains the title more than 50 years later."
In 1999, National Public Radio included it in the "NPR 100", which sought to compile the one hundred most important American musical works of the 20th century. Crosby's version of the song also holds the distinction of being ranked No. 2 on the "Songs of the Century" list, behind only Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow," as voted by members of the RIAA. In 2002, the original 1942 version was one of 50 historically significant recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. In 2004, it finished at No. 5 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.
Irving Berlin's opening verse is often dropped in recordings, but is included on A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records, sung by Darlene Love, on Barbra Streisand's A Christmas Album, on the Carpenters' Christmas Portrait sung by Karen Carpenter, on Bette Midler's Cool Yule, on Libera's Christmas Album and on Crash Test Dummies' Jingle All the Way.
The sun is shining, the grass is green,
The orange and palm trees sway.
There's never been such a day
in Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it's December the twenty-fourth,—
And I am longing to be up North—
^shipments figures based on certification alone
Other notable versions
"White Christmas" is the most-recorded Christmas song; there have been more than 500 recorded versions of the song, in several different languages.
- Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra (with Bob Carroll on lead vocal) released a version (Capitol F-124) that reached No. 16 on Billboard magazine's pop singles chart
- Charlie Spivak and his Orchestra (with Garry Stevens on lead vocal) released a version that reached No. 18 on Billboard's pop singles chart
- Freddy Martin and his Orchestra (with Clyde Rogers on lead vocal), reaching No. 20 on Billboard's pop singles chart (and again in December 1945, reaching No. 16)
- Frank Sinatra (with backing orchestration under the direction of Axel Stordahl) reaching No. 7 on Billboard's pop singles chart (two more times: December 1945, No. 5; December 1946, No. 6)
- Jo Stafford (with backing vocals by the Lyn Murray Singers and backing orchestration by Paul Weston) reaching No. 9 on Billboard's pop singles chart
- Eddy Howard and his Orchestra released a version that reached No. 21 on Billboard magazine's pop singles chart.
- Perry Como (with backing orchestration by Lloyd Shaffer) reaching No. 23 on Billboard's pop singles chart
- Harry James on Columbia 37955 with vocals by Marion Morgan
- The Ravens, reaching No. 9 on Billboard's Rhythm & Blues Records chart in January 1949
- Ernest Tubb (with female backing vocals by The Troubadettes) reaching No. 7 on Billboard's Country & Western Records chart
- On July 15, Eddie Fisher with Hugo Winterhalter's orchestra & chorus recorded a version at Manhattan Center, New York; released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-4910 (in USA) and by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalog number B 10779 and JO 420
- Mantovani and His orchestra, reaching No. 23 on Billboard magazine's pop singles chart
- The Drifters showcased the talents of lead singer Clyde McPhatter and the bass vocals of Bill Pinkney, peaking at No. 2 on Billboard's Rhythm & Blues Records chart (returned to the same chart in the next two years)
- Frank Sinatra (with backing orchestration by Nelson Riddle) for a holiday single on Capitol Records
- Perry Como on his album Season's Greetings from Perry Como
- The Ray Conniff Singers on the album Christmas with Conniff
- Dean Martin on his album A Winter Romance
- Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., mostly known as David Seville, covered the song for the first Christmas album by Alvin and the Chipmunks, Christmas with The Chipmunks
- Robert Goulet on his album This Christmas I Spend with You
- Andy Williams on his first Christmas album, The Andy Williams Christmas Album, reaching No. 1 on Billboard's special, year-end, weekly Christmas Singles chart (the B-side of the single contained Williams's version of "The Christmas Song"), and again in 1967, reaching No. 22
- Darlene Love on the Phil Spector-produced album, A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records
- Smokey Robinson & the Miracles on the album, Christmas with the Miracles
- Jimmy McGriff on his album Christmas with McGriff
- Jim Reeves on his album Twelve Songs of Christmas
- The Beach Boys on The Beach Boys' Christmas Album
- Doris Day on The Doris Day Christmas Album
- Jack Jones on The Jack Jones Christmas Album
- Jo Stafford on her album The Joyful Season
- Jerry Vale on the album Christmas Greetings from Jerry Vale
- The Supremes on the album Merry Christmas
- Bob Marley with the Wailers as a single (later appeared on his compilation album Destiny: Rare Ska Sides from Studio 1)
- Loretta Lynn on her album Country Christmas
- Kenny Burrell on his album Have Yourself a Soulful Little Christmas
- Eydie Gorme, backed by Trio Los Panchos, with a Spanish language version on the album Navidad Means Christmas
- Dean Martin on The Dean Martin Christmas Album
- Kate Smith on The Kate Smith Christmas Album
- Tony Bennett on Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album
- Otis Redding as a single (posthumously), and reached No. 12 on the Christmas Singles chart
- Lana Cantrell on the various-artists album Christmas Day with Colonel Sanders
- Tennessee Ernie Ford on his LP O Come, All ye Faithful
- Keith Lamb with a reggae version with his band Hush in December 1972 (EPW 263) for Warner for an EP entitled Hush Power
- Willie Nelson on his album Pretty Paper
- Stiff Little Fingers as part of the "Silly Encores" B-side to their UK 7" single "At the Edge"
- Slim Whitman on the Epic album Christmas With Slim Whitman
- The Canadian Brass with an instrumental version for the album, A Canadian Brass Christmas
- Neil Diamond with a doo-wop version for The Christmas Album
- Michael Bolton on his non-holiday album Timeless: The Classics, reaching No. 73 on Billboard's Hot 100 Airplay chart in January 1993
- Garth Brooks on his first holiday album, Beyond the Season, reaching No. 70 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart in January 1995
- Aaron Neville on his album Soulful Christmas
- Glen Campbell on his album Christmas with Glen Campbell
- Michie Tomizawa (as Sailor Mars) on the album Sailor Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon SuperS: Christmas For You
- Martina McBride on her album White Christmas, charting twice, reaching No. 75 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart in 1999, and No. 62 on the same chart in 2000
- Chicago on their Chicago XXV: The Christmas Album
- Rockapella on the album Christmas
- Linda Ronstadt on her album A Merry Little Christmas
- Country singer Billy Gilman on his album, Classic Christmas
- Destiny's Child on the album 8 Days of Christmas
- Mannheim Steamroller on the album Christmas Extraordinaire
- Bette Midler on the non-holiday album Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook, reaching No. 15 on Billboard's Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart
- Michael Bublé on his five-track EP Let It Snow
- The Moody Blues on the seasonal album December
- LeAnn Rimes on her album What a Wonderful World
- Dionne Warwick on her album My Favorite Time of the Year
- Jazz guitarist Royce Campbell on his album A Jazz Guitar Christmas
- Tina Sugandh, for the Columbia/Sony film Christmas With the Kranks with Indian/Bollywood elements added to the song
- Girls Aloud on the Chemistry Christmas bonus disc
- Diana Krall on her album Christmas Songs
- Dutch singer René Froger on his album Pure Christmas (re-released as Happy Christmas in 2009)
- Twisted Sister, featuring Doro Pesch, on the album A Twisted Christmas, with German/English lyrics
- Aimee Mann on her holiday album One More Drifter in the Snow
- Rascal Flatts, as a bonus track on a limited-edition version of the album Greatest Hits Volume 1
- Neil Sedaka on his album The Miracle of Christmas
- Al Jarreau on his album Christmas
- Edyta Górniak on her album, Zakochaj się na Święta w kolędach (Fall in love for Christmas in carols), with Polish/English lyrics
- Italian singer Irene Grandi with an Italian version titled "Bianco Natale", for her Christmas album, Canzoni per Natale
- Andrea Bocelli on his album My Christmas, reaching No. 16 on the Portuguese Singles Chart
- Ray Stevens on his album Ray Stevens Christmas
- Marco Mengoni on the compilation album X Factor – The Christmas Album; despite not being released as a single, the song charted at No. 13 on the Italian Singles Chart, based on digital downloads of the track
- Deana Martin and Andy Williams in a duet on her album, White Christmas released by Big Fish Records
- Michael Bublé in a duet featuring Shania Twain on his album, Christmas
- Sheryl Crow on her album Home for Christmas, with a walking bass and an enigmatic, subversive twist
- Jackie Evancho on her album Heavenly Christmas
- Lady Gaga on her TV special, A Very Gaga Thanksgiving, which was also included as one of four tracks on her holiday EP, A Very Gaga Holiday with an additional self-created verse
- Ivi Adamou on her album Christmas with Ivi Adamou
- Cee Lo Green on his holiday album Cee Lo's Magic Moment
- Rod Stewart on his album, Merry Christmas, Baby
- Glee cast members Darren Criss and Chris Colfer on the Christmas episode "Glee, Actually"
- Blake Shelton on his album Cheers, It's Christmas
- Andrea Densley recorded a big-band, swing version on her 5-track Christmas EP White Christmas
- Bad Religion on the album Christmas Songs
- Kelly Clarkson on her first holiday album, Wrapped in Red, which was released as the first promotional single from the album
- Leona Lewis on her album Christmas, with Love
- Erasure on the holiday album Snow Globe
- Contemporary Christian group Sidewalk Prophets on the album Merry Christmas to You
- Darius Rucker on his album Home for the Holidays
- Idina Menzel on her album Holiday Wishes
- Hayden Panettiere on the Nashville album Christmas With Nashville
- Donna Burke and Stefanie Joosten in the digital download format
- The Hot Sardines on their debut album
- Pentatonix featuring The Manhattan Transfer on the album A Pentatonix Christmas
- Sarah McLachlan on her holiday album Wonderland
- Laura Pausini with English, Spanish and French versions on her album Laura Xmas
Notes and references
- Guinness Book of Records, 2007 Edition, page 187
- Guinness Book of Records, 2008 Edition, page 181
- Guinness Book of Records, 2009 Edition, pages 14, 15 & 169
- Roy J. Harris, Jr. (December 5, 2009). "The Best-Selling Record of All. 'White Christmas' and the reasons it endures". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-12-06.
It was a peaceful song that became a wartime classic. Its unorthodox, melancholy melody, and mere 54 words, expressing the simple yearning for a return to happier times—sounded instantly familiar when sung by America's favorite crooner. But 67 years after its introduction, some still are surprised to learn that Bing Crosby's recording of the Irving Berlin ballad "White Christmas" became not only the runaway smash-hit for the World War II holidays, but the best-selling record of all time.
- "History of ""The Jewel of the Desert"" | Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel". Arizonabiltmore.com. Retrieved 2013-11-13.
- White Christmas
- John Mueller (1986). Astaire Dancing - The Musical Films. London: Hamish Hamilton. pp. 204, 425. ISBN 0-241-11749-6.
- Wook Kim (Dec 17, 2012). "Yule Laugh, Yule Cry: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Beloved Holiday Songs (With holiday cheer in the air, TIME takes a closer look at some of the weird stories behind our favorite seasonal tunes)". TIME. - "White Christmas" (p. 6)
- Todd Decker. "Crosby, Bing." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 26 Sep. 2016.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 139.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 134. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- "RIAA News Room - The American Recording Industry Announces its Artists of the Century - Nov 10, 1999". Recording Industry Association of America website. RIAA. 1999-11-10. Retrieved 2010-02-08.
- Guinness Book of Records 2009 states that "Candle in the Wind 1997" is the "best-selling single since charts began"; however, not of all time. Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" is still recognized as the best selling single of all time, but since it was released prior to the start of many charts, its sales prior to the 1950s are estimated. John's 1997 song has sold the most copies when looking at copies sold since charts began, as verified in Guinness World Records. ISBN 1-904994-37-7. See also: Guinness Book of Records, 2009 Edition, pages 14, 15 & 169 
- "New song list puts 'Rainbow' way up high". CNN. March 7, 2001.
- Todd, Olivier (1990), Cruel April: The Fall of Saigon, W.W. Norton & Company, p. 353. For more information, see Fall of Saigon, the end of the Vietnam War.
- White Christmas piano solo, Hal Leonard
- "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
- "ASCAP Announces Top 25 Holiday Songs of the Decade". ASCAP. November 23, 2009. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 42. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 59. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 47. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 58. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 41. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 29. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- "Columbia (Microphone label, USA) 37500 to 38000 Numerical Listing". 78discography.com. Retrieved 2016-01-02.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 55. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 62. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- RCA Victor Records in the 20-4500 to 20-4999 series
- CD sleeve: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits (1955 – Present), 1989 Rhino Records Inc.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 22. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 23. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 48. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 49. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- laut.de | Twisted Sister - "A Twisted Christmas" (CD-Kritik)
- "White Christmas-bianco Natale" on acharts.com
- "Italian Charts - Marco Mengoni - White Christmas (song)". Italiancharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
- "White Christmas by Kelly Clarkson" (in German). Germany: Amazon.de. Retrieved October 7, 2013.
- "Donna Burke | White Christmas". CD Baby. Retrieved December 29, 2015.
- The Hot Sardines
- Lyrics to White Christmas (archived by Internet Archive Wayback Machine)
- Lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
- Library of Congress essay on Crosby's version on the National Recording Registry.
"(I've Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo"
by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra with vocal refrain by Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton and the Modernaires
|The Billboard National Best Selling Retail Records number-one single
(Bing Crosby version)
October 31, 1942 – January 9, 1943 (eleven weeks)
"There Are Such Things"
by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra with vocal refrain by Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers
"Mr. Five by Five"
by Freddie Slack and His Orchestra with vocal by Ella Mae Morse
|The Billboard Harlem Hit Parade number-one single
(Bing Crosby version)
December 19, 1942 – January 2, 1943 (three weeks)
"When the Lights Go on Again (All Over the World)"
by Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra with vocal chorus by Trevor Bacon