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“White Christmas,” written by the formidable composer and lyricist Irving Berlin receives its world premiere on December 26, 1941 on Bing Crosby’s weekly NBC radio program, The Kraft Music Hall. It went on to become one of the most commercially successful singles of all time, and the top-selling single ever until being surpassed by Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997.”
“White Christmas” took its first steps toward becoming a bedrock standard in the American songbook when Crosby first performed it publicly on Christmas Day, 1941. The song’s success couldn’t have surprised Berlin, who despite having already written such songs as “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Cheek To Cheek” and “God Bless America,” had raced into his Manhattan office in January 1940 and asked his musical secretary to transcribe “The best song I ever wrote…the best song anybody ever wrote.” It was nearly two years later, however, that Crosby finally premiered the song on live radio, and a year after that that Crosby’s recording of “White Christmas” became a smash pop hit.
Crosby’s October 1942 recording of “White Christmas” received heavy airplay on Armed Forces Radio as well as on commercial radio during its first Christmas season, becoming an instant #1 pop hit. It also returned to the Hit Parade pop chart in every subsequent Christmas season for the next 20 years. Unlike other perennial holiday hits, however, “White Christmas” strikes a mood that isn’t necessarily jolly. As Jody Rosen, author of the 2002 book White Christmas: The Story of an American Song, told National Public Radio, “It’s very melancholy….And I think this really makes it stand out amongst kind of chirpy seasonal standards [like] ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ or ‘Let It Snow.’….I think that’s one of the reasons why people keep responding to it, because our feelings over the holiday season are ambivalent.”
This was certainly true of the immigrant Russian Jewish songwriter Irving Berlin. Though he did not celebrate Christmas, it was a day that held special meaning to Berlin, who had spent each Christmas Day visiting the grave of his late son, Irving Berlin, Jr., who died at just 3 weeks old on December 25, 1928. As Jody Rosen has suggested about a beloved song of great emotional complexity, “The kind of deep secret of [“White Christmas”] may be that it was Berlin responding in some way to his melancholy about the death of his son.”
The dark secrets behind ‘White Christmas’
Nothing says Christmas better than Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas,” which was first released 75 years ago in 1942. In the time since, it’s been recorded more than 500 times in many different languages.
But it may never have embedded itself so firmly into pop-culture history if not for World War II. With thousands of Americans stationed abroad, the song was a hit with homesick GIs dreaming of where “the treetops glisten” and the sound of “sleigh bells in the snow.” These vivid images were conjured by New York songwriter Irving Berlin — who was actually Jewish.
“Berlin had been drafted in World War I, so he knew what it was like to be away from home,” says Rachel Lithgow, executive director of the American Jewish Historical Society, where the original sheet music is available to view. “He was writing it for himself and his brethren.”
Despite its warm, evocative imagery, the song and its composer have a dark and unusual sad back story. Here are three things you might not know about “White Christmas.”
Christmas marked a Berlin tragedy
Aside from being Jewish, there was another reason Berlin wasn’t big on Christmas: On Dec. 25, 1928, he woke to find his 3-week-old son, Irving Berlin Jr., dead in his bassinet. Every Christmas after, Berlin and his wife, Ellin, would lay a wreath on their child’s grave in the Bronx.
Berlin hated Elvis Presley’s version
The King recorded “White Christmas” in 1957 for “Elvis’ Christmas Album,” but Berlin disliked him, and rock ’n’ roll in general. He even launched a campaign to have radio stations ban Elvis’ version of his song. It failed — and “Elvis’ Christmas Album” went to No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
It helped end the Vietnam War
“White Christmas” played an unusual role in the Vietnam conflict. As the North Vietnamese army rolled into Saigon in April 1975, the pre-approved signal for all Americans to evacuate was the sound of “White Christmas” being played on Armed Forces Radio.
In commenting on his recording of the Christmas classic, “White Christmas,” legendary crooner Bing Crosby once quipped, “A jackdaw with a cleft palate could have sung it successfully.” The quote speaks volumes about the magnificence of the song. Which is to say, almost anyone can make a great song sound good (and vice versa). “White Christmas” is incontestably one of the greatest secular Christmas songs of all time. Indeed, “White Christmas” is a masterpiece.
Irving Berlin, a titan among American songwriters, penned “White Christmas” in 1940. The following quote by composer Jerome Kern speaks to Irving Berlin’s unparalleled skills and staggering success as a songwriter: “Irving Berlin has no place in American music – he is American music.” Berlin wrote over 1000 songs, many of them standards. And, in case you may not know, one of those songs is “God Bless America,” widely considered to be the unofficial national anthem of the United States.
“White Christmas” was composed for the 1942 movie, “Holiday Inn,” a musical based on an idea by Berlin and starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Since the movie was about a hotel that was only open on public holidays, it was Berlin’s task to write a song about every major holiday. He found writing about Christmas, however, to be particularly challenging, and this highlights a great irony of the song: that an Eastern European Jewish immigrant wrote one of the biggest selling Christmas classics of all time. In any event, Berlin was clearly up to the task, and, in addition to becoming a standard, the song won the Academy Award for best original song.
Bing Crosby first performed the song for the public on his NBC radio show (the “Kraft Music Hall”) on December 12, 1941. Sadly, it is suspected that the recording of this broadcast may have been lost or inadvertently destroyed. On May 29, 1942, however, Crosby recorded the song for Decca Records, with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra supplying a lush accompaniment. (Because the master tape of this recording was damaged from excessive use, Crosby rerecorded the song in 1947. This reissued recording is the version most commonly sold and broadcast today.) The song became wildly successful, and by the end of World War II, was the best selling single of all time.
“White Christmas”, the movie based on the song, was released in 1954. The plan was to reunite Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, but, for reasons not entirely clear, Astaire passed on the movie. (some sources note that he was unhappy with the script others indicate that he bowed out due to illness). In any event, the role ultimately went to Danny Kaye, and the movie went on to become the highest grossing film of the year.
For many years, “White Christmas” was the best selling single of all time. It dropped to number two, however, after being surpassed by “Candle in the Wind 1997,” Elton John’s tribute to Princess Diana. Of course, to those who adore Princess Diana and “White Christmas,” statistics such as these are irrelevant. What is relevant is what the songs mean to them. Indeed, every holiday season fans of “White Christmas” derive enormous pleasure from listening to the venerable Bing Crosby softly croon this timeless classic.
The History of White Christmas
He knew the song was good. Using just 54 words and 67 notes Irving Berlin composed White Christmas over the holiday season of 1940. He liked it so much he told a secretary “I’ve just written a new song. Not only is the best song I’ve ever written, it’s the best song anybody’s ever written.”
That was a pretty bold statement for a man who actually could not read a note of music himself or who never experienced Christmas as a child.
After all, he was a Jewish-American composer, the son of immigrants whose own holidays as a youth were remembered more for their poverty than for anything else.
But he was charged with writing songs about every major holiday for a film titled Holiday Inn starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. And of all the holidays he wrote about for that film Christmas presented the greatest challenge.
His name was Irving Berlin. And he was the most prolific songwriter of American music in the 20th century.
Born in 1888, his self-developed songwriting talents produced music still beloved generations beyond their time. From Alexander’s Ragtime Band to There’s No Business Like Show Business Irving Berlin had a talent to not only create a tune that everyone would whistle but he wrote lyrics that spoke from the heart of America.
One such example occurred at the end of World War I when Berlin introduced God Bless America, famously performed by Kate Smith. The song generated such sentiment that serious efforts were made to replace the national anthem with this patriotic song. Even now decades later during another moment of national crisis that Irving Berlin composition stirs the souls of all Americans.
So when Bing Crosby assured Berlin that White Christmas was a winner Crosby knew then what others would shortly feel as America marched off to World War II.
Christmas is full of feeling for home and family and love. And White Christmas captured that feeling perfectly:
These days, we sing White Christmas with a Currier and Ives-like scene in mind. But for the folks who heard it for the first time for real it had a most profound meaning.
The year was 1941. It was a time when folks were possessed with worries of an unstable world, of loved ones being shipped off for war not knowing when they would be together again and when futures were put on hold. A Christmas “just like the ones I used to know” was definitely something to hope for and a sentiment they shared equally.
For most of the folks listening to Bing Crosby’s radio show on NBC their thoughts were of separation during many Christmases to come. Nobody knew how long the war would last or what the outcome would be. For many, facing Christmas under these circumstances made White Christmas a song listened to with reverence and reflection.
As the war progressed, it became, in essence, an anthem itself. Christmas 1943 saw many families torn apart as America fought the war on two fronts. Christmas 1944 was a cold, bitter and frightful time for folks living continents away. This song was cherished on both sides of the ocean, and revered for the sentiment it carried.
By the end of the war, White Christmas had become the biggest selling single of all time. For the next several years it raced up the Top 30 charts no less than 16 times and it remains, to this day, the most popular recorded holiday song ever.
Bing Crosby performed for the troops overseas in countless places during the war. Without fail, he recalls requests for White Christmas regardless of the season. “It really got so that I hesitated about doing it because invariably it caused such a nostalgic yearning among the men that it made them sad. Heaven knows that I didn’t come that far to make them sad. And for this reason, several times I tried to cut it out of the show. But these guys just hollered for it.” Crosby said.
So popular was the recording that Crosby had to re-record it in 1947, because the masters of his 1942 recording session were worn beyond use.
Well after the close of the war, Crosby starred in a syrupy and plot-challenged holiday film also called White Christmas co-starring Danny Kaye. The movie was a hit that created another surge in popularity for the song.
The song defined Bing Crosby’s career. For over 50 years it remained the biggest selling single of all time in all song categories and was only surpassed in 1998 by Elton John’s Candle in the Wind recording in honor of Princess Diana.
White Christmas has endured recordings by various artists — there are over 500 known versions! And it has been translated into 25 different languages.
While it is performed each holiday season, it seems to get an unusual amount of attention from the military. Even during the Vietnam War, a war that Crosby was privately opposed to, White Christmas was used as a signal song to waiting Americans who were evacuating the embassy in Saigon. When the signal phrase “It’s 105 degrees and rising” was uttered followed by the playing of White Christmas a mad scramble ensued for waiting helicopters effectively ending America’s presence in Vietnam.
There are times when the most impracticable of elements combine to create something special. Such was the case with the creation of "White Christmas". And for most of us today, Christmas is just not Christmas without it.
25 Surprising Things About 'White Christmas' That Even Movie Buffs Don't Know
The beloved holiday classic has endless fascinating back stories.
It may not have been a huge box-office hit like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and it may not have made you bawl quite like Love Actually, but White Christmas is still considered one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time &mdash and for good reason.
This 1954 musical film centers around a group of entertainers during World War II keen on spreading the holiday spirit to save a failing Vermont inn. The star-studded cast is packed with several favorites from the era, like Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, and Dean Jagger. What's more, the film introduced to the world a number of catchy sing-along tunes, including "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing" and "What Can You Do With a General?" Not to mention, the movie is also known for helping make the song "White Christmas" as iconic as it is today.
Behind this Christmas flick are a bunch of super interesting facts about the actors, set, and storyline that are bound to make you love the 65-year-old classic even more than you already do. So go on and scroll through this list of White Christmas facts &mdash in no time, you'll be a total trivia whiz.
Many folks assume that the titular track "White Christmas" originally came from the movie with the same name. In reality though, Bing Crosby first performed the tune 13 years before White Christmas came out, on the radio show The Kraft Music Hall. Then, he sang it in Irving Berlin's 1942 classic, Holiday Inn (above), as well as Blue Skies in 1946. Still, most will agree that the White Christmas movie version is the best one.
The composer is the only Oscar presenter to ever open an envelope and read his own name as the winner. After winning for his Holiday Innrendition of "White Christmas," he joked with the audience, &ldquoI&rsquom glad to present the award. I&rsquove known him for a long time.&rdquo
As Betty Haynes, Rosemary Clooney plays Vera-Ellen's older sister in the movie, but she was actually seven years younger. When the film came out, Rosemary was 26, and Vera-Ellen, 33. Even more striking? Bing, who plays her love interest, was 51 when the movie debuted. That's a 25-year-age gap! (It's also funny to note that Dean Jagger, who played the retired, elderly general was actually born a few months after Crosby.)
The film instantly gained notoriety and buzz the year it was released for being in VistaVision, Paramount's then-brand-new process of projecting on a wide, flat screen. The result was a better pictorial quality and better on-screen colors.
‘White Christmas’: The Story Behind Bing Crosby’s Timeless Classic
Artists have always tried to go one better than Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, the song that arguably defines the holiday season like no other.
Year after year, artists and songwriters have been trying to go one better than Bing Crosby. His recording of “White Christmas” is ubiquitous and along the way has become the biggest-selling single of all time, racking up sales of 50 million in the process.
“White Christmas” received its first public broadcast on Christmas Eve 1941, during Bing Crosby’s radio show. This was just a few weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which is possibly why it became such an important song to American servicemen overseas. It spoke to them – and those they left behind – of safer, saner times.
The song that has come closest to rivaling “White Christmas” is another well-known classic which begins, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” – Mel Tormé’s “The Christmas Song.” As well as being a songwriter, Mel was a fantastic singer who recorded some great albums for Verve Records, but his version was not the original hit. Against the wishes of his record company, Nat “King” Cole recorded his version of “The Christmas Song” in 1946, the first of four occasions he made a recording of it. It’s another song that has been covered by well over 100 artists, including Diana Ross, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, and Carpenters.
Bing Christmas: 'Tis the Season to Be Crosby
O n Dec. 25, 1941, 73 years ago today, Bing Crosby introduced “White Christmas” on his CBS radio show. Written a few years earlier by Irving Berlin, and dusted off for the Crosby&ndashFred Astaire musical Holiday Inn, the song came out on July 30, 1942, to coincide with the film’s Aug. 4 release. It topped the record charts by October and remained there until January. Reissued each year thereafter, it reached No. 1 again in 1945 and 1946, and was in the top 15 eight other years. With more than 50 million in sales, “White Christmas” is the best-selling single of all time.
Who would rival Crosby as the most popular, influential and enduring entertainer of the 20th century? Perhaps only his pal Bob Hope and, let’s say, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. As detailed in Bing Crosby Rediscovered, receiving a holiday encore this weekend on PBS’s American Masters series, he revolutionized pop singing by crooning, not belting, his songs into a microphone, creating an instant and erotic intimacy with his listeners. His 1935 radio show on CBS saved the struggling network and made it a rival to mighty NBC. In films his image as the easy-going bon vivant put him among the leading stars of his era, and his pairing with Hope in Road to Singapore and its sequels accounted for the top-grossing movie series before the James Bond era. He won an Oscar as the singing priest in the 1944 Going My Way and probably deserved another one a decade later as the alcoholic actor in The Country Girl.
Bing, according to producer Ken Barnes on the PBS show, “rolled uphill to success.” He missed some early gigs, including his CBS radio debut, because of heavy drinking. (“He wasn’t hard to work with,” recalled Al Rinker, his partner in the late-s trio The Rhythm Boys. “He was hard to find sometimes.”) Devoted less to hard work than to golf, he found a way to spend more time on the links by prerecording his broadcasts another first. The only star of early talkies with no prior experience in movies or on the legit or vaudeville stage, Crosby made acting look as natural as singing. Like Astaire, he was both an innovator and a classic, a species of utterly American elegance. That’s how he earned tens of millions (much of which he lost on the horses &mdash raising his own and betting on others). As Hope wise-cracked, “No one has ever done so much with so little for so long, for so much.”
Crosby was a star for all media and all seasons. But this is the season he still owns. Bing pretty much invented the Christmas music industry. He&rsquod been hosting Christmas specials on radio since 1936. “White Christmas,” which expressed the ache of nostalgia for World War II soldiers an ocean away from their families, certified his primacy as the pop-music Santa Claus. In 1943 he went to No. 3 with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas (If Only in My Dreams),” another ballad for homesick GIs.
Two years later came Merry Christmas: eight Crosby songs on four 78s in a hard-back format (why they were called “albums”). Later expanded to 12 songs for the 1954 LP edition, Merry Christmas has flourished in vinyl, tape, CD and downloads. It has been continuously in print longer than any U.S. album except for the original-cast recording of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1943 Broadway musical Oklahoma!
Assembled before the golden age of secular Christmas songs (Nat King Cole’s “A Christmas Song,” Gene Autry’s “Here Comes Santa Claus,” Hope’s “Silver Bells”). Merry Christmas mixes the solemn (a robust “Adeste Fidelis”) and the swingin&rsquo (the vamps of &ldquoJing&mdashjing&mdashjing&mdashjingle bells&rdquo that he swaps with the Andrews Sisters). Bing does a little globetrotting here, adding songs with Irish and Hawaiian settings, but it&rsquos basically that warm Crosby baritone making merry and bright. Among holiday LPs, this is the all-time champ.
Long resisting TV because he believed that weekly visual exposure would dilute his popularity, Crosby eventually starred in specials a few times a year, including an annual Christmas show that often featured Gary, Philip, Dennis and Lindsay, his four singing sons from his first marriage to Dixie Lee. In Bing Crosby Rediscovered, producer-writer-director Robert Trachtenberg (who did the excellent Gene Kelly doc Anatomy of a Dancer) offers a balanced tribute to a man more complex and haunted than the public Bing this is Crosby with his toupée off (literally, in two clips from 1945).
He sent platoons of psychiatrists to help Dixie give up drinking, without success he was making a movie in England when she died at 40 of ovarian cancer. He tried disciplining his sons with tough love &mdash “I laid in a big leather belt,” he said in his autobiography &mdash but they rebelled by getting in trouble. Gary, who wrote a book accusing his father of sadistic strappings, died at 62 of lung cancer. Dennis and Lindsay were gunshot suicides, at 56 and 61 respectively. Only Philip survived into this century, dead at 70 of a heart attack.
Three of the boys were along for their dad’s last TV special, the 1977 “A Merry Olde Christmas,” with guest star David Bowie. Asked to duet with Crosby on “The Little Drummer Boy,” Bowie at first refused so Ian Fraser, the show’s musical director, teamed with composer Larry Grossman and producer Buz Kohan and created an instant carol, “Peace on Earth,” for Bowie to sing in counterpoint to Bing’s “Drummer Boy.” Recorded on Sept. 11, the song was in the program when it aired Nov. 30, and reached No. 3 on the U.K. charts when it was released as a single in 1982. But Crosby had died Oct. 14, at 74, suffering a heart attack at the conclusion of a foursome on a Madrid course. His last words: &ldquoThat was a great game of golf, fellas.&rdquo
The year before, when asked for a quick self-description by Barbara Walters, Crosby replied: “I’d say he sang a fair song, in tune most of the time that he could read lines pretty good had a good sense of comedy timing, a fair vocabulary and not a bad fella all around. That’s about it.” Irving Berlin couldn’t have written a finer, fairer obit of Bing Christmas.
In the 101 years that Irving Berlin lived, he wrote nearly a thousand songs, including the standards "God Bless America" and "There's No Business Like Show Business," but his "White Christmas," recorded by Bing Crosby and others, has proved to be his most popular song.
Jody Rosen, author of a book about "White Christmas," says that Berlin had a knack for composing songs with themes familiar to audiences.
" 'White Christmas' draws on bedrock traditions in American culture," Rosen says. "This New England snowy setting is something that feels to us like something that we all sort of know and has always been."
Linda Emmet, one of Irving Berlin's daughters and co-editor of The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin, says the songs suggest a feeling of the holiday season without any religious context.
"It's very evocative: the snow, the Christmas card, the sleigh, the sleigh bells," she says. "It's very evocative, and it's entirely secular."
An American Holiday
Christmas was not exactly a holiday that Irving Berlin grew up celebrating. He was born in Russia, the son of a cantor, and his first language was Yiddish.
Emmet says that her father's experience as an immigrant in America led him to conclude that Christmas was not as much a religious holiday as a cultural one.
"As a Russian Jewish immigrant, when he came to the United States, Christmas was an American holiday to him," she says. "It was like every American holiday. It was a fresh, new experience for him."
Hear 'White Christmas'
A Mysterious Genesis
For a song as immensely popular as "White Christmas," surprisingly little is known about its genesis. Berlin's own daughter says she doesn't know when or where her father wrote it.
"I believe it was written in either 1938 or '39, possibly in Arizona, possibly in New York or perhaps in both places," Emmet says.
Rosen has his theories as well: "Possibly over Christmas 1937," he says, "when he was separated from his family for the first time in Beverly Hills, making a movie called Alexander's Ragtime Band."
But both Rosen and Emmett agree that "White Christmas" was originally written for a Broadway musical revue about American holidays that was never produced.
Paramount Pictures picked up the idea and turned it into Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.
As Irving Berlin told the BBC, when the film was released in 1942, he thought another tune would be the hit.
"I had a song in that called 'Be Careful, It's My Heart,' for Valentine's Day," Berlin said. "And that's the song I picked as the big hit, and that's the song as a publisher I plugged. And it was a fair success. But I also had a song in there called 'White Christmas.' "
Bing Crosby's Hit
Bing Crosby's single was released in October 1942 and steadily rose up the charts.
What really made "White Christmas" a success was its inclusion in the playlist of Armed Forces Radio. American GIs spending their first Christmas overseas during WWII wholeheartedly embraced the song's homespun sentiments.
"I sang it many times in Europe in the field for soldiers, and they'd holler for it. They'd demand it. When I'd sing it, they'd all cry," Bing Crosby said. "It's nostalgic, and it's kind of poignant, you know, particularly during the war years you know, so many young people were away and they'd hear this song. And it would happen to be that time of the year, it would really affect them."
Crosby reproduced this experience 12 years later in the classic movie White Christmas.
Jody Rosen says that one of the more surprising aspects of the popularity of "White Christmas" is that in spirit, if not in form, it's a blues song.
"It's very melancholy," Rosen says. "And I think this really makes it stand out amongst kind of chirpy seasonal standards: 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,' 'Let It Snow.' And I think that's one of the reasons why people keep responding to it, because our feelings over the holiday season are ambivalent."
Berlin's own feelings about the holiday were certainly ambivalent. He suffered a tragedy on Christmas Day in 1928 when his 3-week-old son, Irving Berlin Jr., died. Every Christmas thereafter, he and his wife visited his son's grave.
"The kind of deep secret of the song may be that it was Berlin responding in some way to his melancholy about the death of his son," Rosen says.
Hundreds Of Versions
There have been hundreds of versions of "White Christmas" recorded over the years, but Crosby's single has outsold every one of them.
Rosen says that the success of the record and the power of the performance add up to a watershed event in the history of American pop culture.
"It marks the moment, I think, when performers supplant songwriters as the central creative forces in at least mainstream American pop music, and the emphasis shifts to charismatic performances recorded for all time and preserved on records," Rosen says. "So I think, in a way, 'White Christmas' is both the pinnacle of the Tin Pan Alley era and its swan song. Because shortly after 'White Christmas,' you have Frank Sinatra and then very quickly you have Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry and Little Richard, and we're getting into the rock era."
Irving Berlin & Elvis Presley
In 1957, Elvis Presley recorded a Christmas album. On it, he performed a song called "Blue Christmas," in addition to Berlin's "White Christmas."
"Berlin couldn't stand Presley, and Presley recorded a cover version of 'White Christmas' for his Christmas album, which Berlin took as kind of sacrilege," Rosen says. "He really thought it was degrading to his song. So he and members of his staff launched a furious campaign to try and get radio stations to ban the Presley record."
Despite Berlin's efforts to keep the record off the air, Presley's single topped the Billboard charts, and the royalty checks kept on coming. "White Christmas" has been recorded by all sorts of artists, from Alvin and the Chipmunks to Zamfir, from the Three Tenors to Michael Bolton, from Tammy Wynette to The Drifters.
In April 1975, "White Christmas" again became part of American military history, according to Rosen.
"The Army used 'White Christmas' as the secret signal instructing American soldiers to evacuate Saigon.," Rosen says. "It was played several times in a row over Armed Forces Radio. So what's interesting is this song, which during WWII was really the song of American soldiers' homesickness, became somewhat ironically in 1975 the 'Let's go home and get the hell out of here' song for the American Army in Vietnam."
Tastes change, musical styles change. MP3s replace CDs, which replace records. "White Christmas" endures.
" 'White Christmas' has taken a place along with Christmas carols and classical Christmas songs, which to me is quite remarkable," Emmet says. "And the nicest thing is to think that it is played in many different parts of the world and places where there are many different ideas about Christmas, and very different political ideas or cultural ideas. But the song transcends that."
In December of 1941, seventeen days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Bing Crosby made the first live radio performance of a new song called “White Christmas.” Crosby’s unforgettable voice, singing what would become one of the most iconic Christmas songs ever written, went almost unnoticed in the flurry of activity around the United States entry into World War II.
The song had been created by songwriter Irving Berlin, a Jewish Russian immigrant. Its nostalgic view of an ideal snowy northeastern Christmas had to wait until the August 1942 release of the movie Holiday Inn before its popularity would take off. Within a month of the film’s premiere, sheet music and record sales propelled “White Christmas” to the top of the Hit Parade music chart for 10 weeks beginning in November 1942. From that point on, “White Christmas” became an instant classic and one of the most patriotic songs of World War II.
The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1942 and was such a hit, that Berlin decided to write an entire movie around it.
Prior to the film’s release in the fall of 1954, Variety wrote that “White Christmas should be a natural at the box office…with a hot ensemble including Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, and an Irving Berlin score.” Variety was right White Christmas became the highest grossing film of 1954 and the highest grossing musical film of all-time.
The Upcountry History Museum in partnership with the Rosemary Clooney House, Augusta, Kentucky and a private collector, will host White Christmas – The Exhibition in the Fall of 2020. Greenville, South Carolina will be the second U.S. city to host the 2000 square foot exhibit.
Original White Christmas film costumes created by legendary designer Edith Head, props, sheet music, cast member’s personal memorabilia, archival materials, replica backdrops and more will invite visitors to experience first-hand the musical genius of Irving Berlin and the making of this beloved holiday film about two WWII veterans who team up with a singing sister duo to save a faltering Vermont lodge owned by the veteran’s former commanding officer.
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
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
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