White Christmas (song)

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"White Christmas"

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, Matrix # DLA 3009.
Single by Bing Crosby
from the album Merry Christmas
B-side"Let's Start the New Year Right"
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"
Released1942, 1946, 1947, 1950, 1955, 1983
Format7-inch, 10-inch
RecordedMay 29, 1942
March 19, 1947
GenreChristmas, pop
Length3:02 (1942 recording)
3:04 (1947 recording)
LabelDecca (1942-1973 issues)
MCA (1983-1985 issues)
Writer(s)Irving Berlin
Bing Crosby singles chronology
"Be Careful, It's My Heart"
(1942)
"White Christmas"
(1942)
"Moonlight Becomes You"
(1942)
 
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"White Christmas"

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, Matrix # DLA 3009.
Single by Bing Crosby
from the album Merry Christmas
B-side"Let's Start the New Year Right"
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"
Released1942, 1946, 1947, 1950, 1955, 1983
Format7-inch, 10-inch
RecordedMay 29, 1942
March 19, 1947
GenreChristmas, pop
Length3:02 (1942 recording)
3:04 (1947 recording)
LabelDecca (1942-1973 issues)
MCA (1983-1985 issues)
Writer(s)Irving Berlin
Bing Crosby singles chronology
"Be Careful, It's My Heart"
(1942)
"White Christmas"
(1942)
"Moonlight Becomes You"
(1942)

"White Christmas" is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide. All other versions of the song, along with Bing Crosby's, has estimated sales over 100 million copies.[1][2][3][4]

Accounts vary as to when and where Berlin wrote the song.[4] 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.[5] 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!"[6]

Bing Crosby version[edit]

1945 V-Disc release by the U.S. Army of "White Christmas" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas" by Bing Crosby as No. 441B.
Picture sleeve of 1959 reissue by Decca Records (9-23778)

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 the estate of Bing Crosby and was loaned to CBS Sunday Morning for their December 25, 2011, program.[4] He subsequently recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers 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 songs from the film Holiday Inn.[4][7] 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."[8]

The song initially performed poorly and was overshadowed by Holiday Inn's first hit song: "Be Careful, It's my Heart".[7] By the end of October 1942, however, "White Christmas" topped the "Your Hit Parade" chart. It remained in that position until well into the new year.[7] (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. The Armed Forces Network was flooded with requests for the song. The song is noted for Crosby's whistling during the second Chorus.[7])

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,[9] Crosby's first-ever appearance on the black-oriented chart. Re-released by Decca, the single returned to the #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.

Following its prominence in the musical Holiday Inn, the composition won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1942.[10] In the film, Bing 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, was to sing the song.[7]

The version most often heard today is not the original 1942 Crosby recording, as the master had become damaged due to frequent use. Crosby re-recorded the track on March 18, 1947, accompanied again by the Trotter Orchestra and the Darby Singers, with every effort made to reproduce the original recording session.[6] There are subtle differences in the orchestration, most notably the addition of a celesta and flutes to brighten up the introduction.

Crosby was dismissive of his role in the song's success, saying later that "a jackdaw with a cleft palate could have sung it successfully." But Crosby was associated with it for the rest of his career. Another Crosby vehicle — the 1954 musical White Christmas — was the highest-grossing film of 1954.

Sales figures[edit]

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.[3][4] 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 some confusion and considerable debate on whether Crosby's record is or is not the best-selling single in the world, 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.[11] 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.[1] 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."[12]

Historic influence[edit]

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 #2 on the "Songs of the Century" list, behind only Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow," as voted by members of the RIAA.[13] 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.

The recording was broadcast on the radio on April 30, 1975, as a secret, pre-arranged signal precipitating the U.S. evacuation from Saigon (see Fall of Saigon, the end of Vietnam War).[citation needed]

Original verse[edit]

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.[6]

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—
—Verse dropped from original version[14]

This opening verse was also included on country singer Collin Raye's version of the song, as featured on his 2004 album, Christmas: The Gift. British band Keane's version of the song also included this introduction, but with changed lyrics to give the song a melancholic feeling:

The sun's been hiding, the streets are gray,
The rain has been falling down.

Seems everyone wears a frown
for Christmas in London town
It reminds me each time I roamed.

I'm longing to be back home
—Keane version of the introduction

Certifications[edit]

RegionCertificationSales/shipments
Sweden (GLF)[15]Gold25,000x
United States (RIAA)[16]Gold1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Other versions[edit]

"White Christmas" is the most-recorded Christmas song; there have been more than 500 recorded versions of the song, in several different languages.[17]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b Guinness Book of Records, 2007 Edition, page 187
  2. ^ Guinness Book of Records, 2008 Edition, page 181
  3. ^ a b Guinness Book of Records, 2009 Edition, pages 14, 15 & 169
  4. ^ a b c d e 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." 
  5. ^ "History of ""The Jewel of the Desert"" | Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel". Arizonabiltmore.com. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  6. ^ a b c White Christmas
  7. ^ a b c d e John Mueller (1986). Astaire Dancing - The Musical Films. London: Hamish Hamilton. pp. 204, 425. ISBN 0-241-11749-6. 
  8. ^ 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)
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 139. 
  10. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 134. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  11. ^ "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. 
  12. ^ 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 [1]
  13. ^ "New song list puts 'Rainbow' way up high". CNN. March 7, 2001. 
  14. ^ White Christmas piano solo, Hal Leonard
  15. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  16. ^ "American single certifications – Bing Crosby – White Christmas". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 22 December 2012.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  17. ^ "ASCAP Announces Top 25 Holiday Songs of the Decade". ASCAP. November 23, 2009. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  18. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 42. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  19. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 59. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  20. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 47. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  21. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 58. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  22. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 41. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  23. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 29. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  24. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 55. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  25. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 62. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  26. ^ RCA Victor Records in the 20-4500 to 20-4999 series
  27. ^ CD sleeve: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits (1955 - Present), 1989 Rhino Records Inc.
  28. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 22. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  29. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 23. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  30. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 48. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  31. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 49. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  32. ^ laut.de | Twisted Sister - "A Twisted Christmas" (CD-Kritik)
  33. ^ "White Christmas-bianco Natale" on acharts.com
  34. ^ "White Christmas-bianco Natale" Hungary Top 10, Week 51/2009
  35. ^ "Italian Charts - Marco Mengoni - White Christmas (song)". Italiancharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  36. ^ "White Christmas by Kelly Clarkson" (in German). Germany: Amazon.de. Retrieved October 7, 2013. 

External links[edit]