White Christmas by Bing Crosby Song Info
"White Christmas" is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. The song was written by Berlin for the musical film Holiday Inn, released in 1942. The composition won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 15th Academy Awards. Since its release, "White Christmas" has been covered by many artists, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the world's best-selling single (in terms of sales of physical media) with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide. When the figures for other versions of the song are added to Crosby's, sales of the song exceed 100 million. 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 few weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. A copy of the recording from the radio program is owned by Crosby's estate and was loaned to CBS News Sunday Morning for their December 25, 2011 program. Crosby subsequently recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers at Radio Recorders for Decca Records in 18 minutes on May 29, 1942, and it was released on July 30 as part of an album of six 78-rpm discs from the musical film Holiday Inn. 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." The song established that there could be commercially successful secular Christmas songs—in this case, written by a Jewish immigrant to the United States. Ronald D. Lankford, Jr., wrote, "During the 1940s, 'White Christmas' would set the stage for a number of classic American holiday songs steeped in a misty longing for yesteryear." Before 1942, Christmas songs and films had come out sporadically, and many were popular. However, "the popular culture industry had not viewed the themes of home and hearth, centered on the Christmas holiday, as a unique market" until after the success of "White Christmas" and the film where it appeared, Holiday Inn. Dave Marsh and Steve Propes wrote, "'White Christmas' changed Christmas music forever, both by revealing the huge potential market for Christmas songs and by establishing the themes of home and nostalgia that would run through Christmas music evermore." The song initially performed poorly and was overshadowed by Holiday Inn's first hit song: "Be Careful, It's My Heart". By the end of October 1942, "White Christmas" topped the Your Hit Parade chart. It remained in that position until well into the new year. 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 recording is noted for Crosby's whistling during the second chorus. 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, The song also topped the following weekly charts in the same year: Songs with Most Radio Plugs, National record sales, and National sheet music sales. Crosby's first-ever appearance on the black-oriented chart. Re-released by Decca, the single returned to the No. 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 times before Billboard magazine created a distinct Christmas chart for seasonal releases. In Holiday Inn, the composition won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1942. In the film, 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, would sing the song. The song would feature in another Crosby film, the 1954 musical White Christmas, which became the highest-grossing film of 1954. (Crosby made yet another studio recording of the song, accompanied by Joseph J. Lilley's orchestra and chorus, for the film's soundtrack album.) According to Crosby's nephew, Howard Crosby, "I once asked Uncle Bing about the most difficult thing he ever had to do during his entertainment career… He said in December 1944, he was in a USO show with Bob Hope and the Andrews Sisters. They did an outdoor show in northern France… he had to stand there and sing 'White Christmas' with 100,000 G.I.s in tears without breaking down himself. Of course, a lot of those boys were killed in the Battle of the Bulge a few days later." The version most often heard today on the radio during the Christmas season is the 1947 re-recording. The 1942 master was damaged due to frequent use. Crosby re-recorded the track on March 19, 1947, accompanied again by the Trotter Orchestra and the Darby Singers, with every effort made to reproduce the original recording session. The re-recording is recognizable by the addition of flutes and celesta in the beginning. Although Crosby dismissed his role in the song's success, saying later that "a jackdaw with a cleft palate could have sung it successfully", he was associated with it for the rest of his career. 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. By 1968, it had already sold thirty million. The Guinness Book of World Records 2009 Edition lists the song as a 100-million seller, encompassing all versions of the song, including albums. 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 confusion and debate on whether Crosby's record is the best-selling single, 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. However, after careful research, Guinness World Records in 2007 concluded that, worldwide, Crosby's recording of "White Christmas" has sold at least 50 million copies, and that Elton John's recording of "Candle in the Wind 1997" has sold 33 million. 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." 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 No. 2 on the "Songs of the Century" list, behind only Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow," as voted by members of the RIAA. 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. In 2004, it ranked No. 5 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema. In a UK poll in December 2012, "White Christmas" was voted fourth (behind "Fairytale of New York", "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" and "Merry Xmas Everybody") on the ITV television special The Nation's Favourite Christmas Song. The recording was broadcast on Armed Forces Radio on April 30, 1975, as a secret, pre-arranged signal precipitating the U.S. evacuation from Saigon.