You’ve probably heard them over and over throughout the last month, and might even be dying for them to finally disappear again, but what do you actually know about Christmas songs other than the lyrics? Here are some fun facts about the carols you keep hearing.
The Man Behind The Music
While he hasn’t created every carol, no man has contributed more to the Christmas music genre than Jonny Marks, who wrote such classics as “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Silver and Gold,” and “Run Rudolph Run.” Interestingly, despite writing so many of modern day Christmas classics, Marks didn’t even celebrate the holiday because he was Jewish.
His career in carols all started when he wrote “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in 1949. The song was based on a poem that was written by his brother-in-law, Robert L. May, for the Montgomery Ward Company. The song was also his biggest hit, selling a total of 25 million copies, making the album the best selling record of all time up until the 1980s.
Sources: Wikipedia #1 and #2
The Best-Selling Single Ever
Because we might only listen to Christmas songs for a short part of the year, they often become some of the most enduring pop songs since they are a lot harder to get burned out on. In fact, the best-selling single of all time, with more than 100 million copies sold worldwide, isn’t sung by the Beetles, Michael Jackson or even Justin Beiber, but is instead by Bing Crosby. When you listen to “White Christmas” though, it’s easy to see why it has continued to sell so well throughout the years -Crosby’s classic crooning immediately sets the mood for Christmas, even seventy years after it was released.
Funny enough though, when it was featured in the film Holiday Inn in 1942, the song didn’t do well and was overshadowed by the movie’s other big hit, “Be Careful, It’s My Heart.” Within a few months though, the holidays were nearing and “White Christmas” started climbing up the charts. The melancholy, homesick vibe of the song only helped its sales, being as how it came out right during the middle of WWII, making it feel incredibly appropriate to both those away at war and those who stayed at home.
Think Christmas songs are too commercial now with Justin Beiber, Cee Lo Green and Mariah Carey topping the charts? Well, get used to it because that’s nothing new. In fact, two of the most widely celebrated Christmas songs were written for movies. As mentioned above, “White Christmas” was written for Holiday Inn, and the classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was first performed by Judy Garland in the 1944 musical Meet Me in St. Louis, even if the more popular version was recorded later by Frank Sinatra.
Like “White Christmas,” WWII was part of the reason “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was so popular thanks to lines like “let your heart be light/Next year all our troubles will be out of sight.” Interestingly, the song was originally much darker, but Garland and her co-star Tom Drake pushed creator Hugh Martin for a few rewrites to make it a little more cheerful. In fact, the lines above were originally, "It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past” –not quite as full of holiday cheer is it?