The history of the creation of the song White Christmas

“Any wolf-mouthed talker could sing it well,” Bing Crosby said of the famous White Christmas song. By this he wanted to say that his merit in the popularity of the song is small, but the huge number of cover versions in demand makes one think that there is some truth in his joke.

It is noteworthy that White Christmas – the most popular Christmas song in the United States, which for several decades remained the most commercially successful single in the world – was written by Russian emigrant Irving Berlin (real name Israel Moiseevich Beilin). Being a Jew, born in the family of a cantor of the Tyumen synagogue, he could hardly consider Christmas as his holiday. Moreover, for him personally, December 25 was a sad date.

The history of creation and the meaning of the song White Christmas

But first, let’s talk directly about the history of the creation of White Christmas. It was intended for the feature film Holiday Inn. For the musical, based on a script by Berlin, Irving had to compose several songs, one each for major holidays. He later recalled that White Christmas was the hardest for him.

Most likely, the point was that on December 25, 1928, his son died, not having lived even a month. Irving couldn’t help thinking about his death while working on White Christmas. Perhaps that is why he wrote a song that, unlike other Christmas compositions, evokes not only joyful emotions in people. It makes many people yearn for their homeland, remember their dead parents and distant relatives, regret their lost youth or lost love.

According to the most common version, Irving wrote White Christmas while in California in January 1940. They say he rushed to the office and said to the secretary:

Grab a pen and write. This is the best song I’ve ever written… The best song anyone has ever written.

So Berlin foresaw the future popularity of his creation even before the official release.

Release and accomplishments of White Christmas

The public first heard White Christmas on Christmas Day 1941. Bing Crosby performed it on The Kraft Music Hall radio show he hosted on NBC. A copy of that recording has survived to this day, and in 2011 it was played on CBS Christmas Sunday Morning.

In May 1942, Crosby made the first studio recording of White Christmas, accompanied by the Ken Darby Singers and the John Scott Trotter Orchestra. It was included on the Holiday Inn LP released in July of that year. Then the victorious procession of the song began on various charts. In the same year, White Christmas received an Oscar.

Clip White Christmas

Let’s watch the music video for White Christmas from the movie Holiday Inn.

It is not possible to list all the musicians who recorded cover versions of the White Christmas song, since more than five hundred such attempts were made in several languages. Among the performers of the composition are Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Drifters, Bob Marley, Cher, Barbra Streisand, Otis Redding, Neil Diamond, Boy George and many others.

Recall the scene from the comedy Home Alone, in which White Christmas is played by The Drifters.

Interesting Facts

  • The first verse of White Christmas is usually omitted. This tradition began with producer Bing Crosby, who convinced the singer to abandon the lines about green grass and bright sun, which, in his opinion, were inappropriate in a Christmas song.
  • In 1954, a film was made called White Christmas, in which Bing Crosby also played the main role.
  • In 1975, the song White Christmas, played on the radio after the announcer said that the temperature in Saigon was “105 degrees and continuing to rise,” became the signal for American troops to retreat and end operations in Vietnam.
  • White Christmas was the best-selling single in the world for a very long time, but then it was surpassed by Elton John’s Candle in the Wind 1997, which he dedicated to Princess Diana.

White Christmas Lyrics

The sun is shining, the grass is green
The orange and palm trees sway
There’s never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, LA

But it’s December the 24th
And I’m longing to be up North…

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white”

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow

White Christmas Lyrics Bing Crosby

The sun is shining, the grass is green
Orange trees and palms are swaying
There never was a day like this
In Beverly Hills, in Los Angeles

But today is the twenty-fourth of December,
And I really want to be in the north of the country

I dream of a snowy Christmas
When I sign Christmas cards:
“Let your life be cheerful and joyful,
And may all your Christmas holidays be snowy.

I dream of a snowy Christmas
Just like the ones before
Where the treetops sparkled and the children listened
To hear the sleigh bells in the snow

Song quote

It’s very melancholy… And I think it’s different from the joyful seasonal standards like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Let It Snow… I think that’s one of the reasons why people react to it, because our feelings during the holidays are ambivalent.

Jody Rosen

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