Many Christmas songs we enjoy today were written long ago. Some were composed during turbulent times in our nation’s history and offered hope to those living in times of distress. The following three songs were written during World War II:
“White Christmas”, written by Irving Berlin, premiered on Christmas Day in 1941 at the Kraft Music Hall radio show, 18 days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The show’s host, Bing Crosby, performed the song. A few months later, Crosby showcased the song again in the film “Holiday Inn”, earning Berlin an Academy Award.
In 1942, Armed Forces Radio began airing “White Christmas” to American troops stationed overseas during World War II. The troops’ fondness for the song helped land White Christmas in the top 10 music charts.
Bing Crosby’s version of “White Christmas”, selling an estimated 50 million copies, became the best-selling Christmas song and best-selling single of all time.
“White Christmas” has been recorded by performers including Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Kate Smith, Barbara Streisand, Andrea Bocelli, and Gwen Stefani.
I’ll Be Home for Christmas
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, written by Kim Gannon, Walter Kent, and Buck Ram, quickly became one of the country’s most popular Christmas songs.
Bing Crosby, accompanied by the John Scott Trotter Orchestra, recorded “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” on October 4, 1943. A month later, the song ranked third on the music charts.
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, like “White Christmas”, appealed to American soldiers stationed overseas during the Second World War. I’ll Be Home for Christmas became the most requested song at U.S.O. performances.
On December 7, 1965, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” found an audience in space. NASA ground crew transmitted the song to Frank Borman and James Lovell, astronauts aboard Gemini 7, at their request.
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” has been recorded by Johnny Mathis, Elvis Presley, Connie Francis, Sara Evans, Kelly Clarkson, Seth McFarlane, Pentatonix, and many more.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, was created for “Meet Me in St. Louis”, a 1944 musical that featured Judy Garland. Garland considered some of the song’s verses too melancholy and asked Martin for a revision. Martin complied.
Garland performed “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” live at the Hollywood Canteen, a club for U.S. service members scheduled for duty overseas.
In 1957, Frank Sinatra wished to include “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in his holiday album, “A Jolly Christmas.” Sinatra, however, disliked the song’s line “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow,” and asked Martin to rewrite it. Thus, Sinatra was given a new line for the song, “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.”
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” has been recorded by many other performers including Bing Crosby, James Taylor, Tony Bennett, Diana Krall, and the Pretenders.