With Thanksgiving now behind us, and the Holiday season in full swing, PopWrapped Presents: 12 Iconic Christmas Songs That Became Instant Holiday Classics. The popularity of Christmas songs exploded in the 1940's, and continued well into the 1960's. For over 50 years, one of the songs on our list has reigned as the biggest-selling single of all-time. These are songs that define the holiday season for millions of people, year after year, bringing with them, joyous memories, good tidings, and helping to create the soundtrack of our lives. Thankfully, with artists like *NSYNC, Kelly Clarkson, Evin, and Mariah Carey giving us their holiday greatest, we are able to continue to add to our collection of timeless classics. Soon, the stockings will be hung by the fireplace, Christmas trees will be beautifully lit, and if you're lucky enough, you just might have the perfect white Christmas. Let me know what you think of my choices, and be sure to check out my list of 100 Greatest Holiday Songs Of All-Time.
White Christmas (1942) - Bing Crosby
Written by Irving Berlin
White Christmas premiered on Christmas Day, 1941, sung by Bing Crosby on his NBC Radio show, The Kraft Music Hall. Crosby subsequently recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers in just 18 minutes, on May 29, 1942. It was originally released, as part of a six-disc collection of 78-RPM records, for the soundtrack to Holiday Inn. To date, Crosby's version has sold over 100-million copies, and is the all-time best-selling single in the world. The 1942 master recording was completely worn out and badly damaged by 1947, and Crosby had to re-record the song to meet the demand for the 1947 holiday season. White Christmas won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1942, and has spent more than a dozen weeks at the top of the Billboard Chart. White Christmas was listed as the world's best-selling single in the first-ever Guinness Book of Records (published in 1955) and still retains that title more than 60 years later. White Christmas has gone on to be the most important and influential holiday song of all-time.
Underneath The Tree (2013) - Kelly Clarkson
Written by Kelly Clarkson and Greg Kurstin
Underneath The Tree is the lead single from Kelly Clarkson's first Christmas record, Wrapped In Red. Released in November of 2013, and showcasing Clarkson's powerful vocals, it exploded onto the holiday scene, and became an instant classic. The song rocketed to number one on the U.S. and Canada adult contemporary charts and reached the top 40 in Canada, the Netherlands, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Each year since its release, Underneath The Tree is a mainstay on the Billboard Holiday Chart. It's worth noting that Clarkson sang every vocal on the record herself, essentially becoming her own choir. The timeless message, wall of sound treatment, sleigh bells and bell chimes ensure that this song will be a holiday standard, for decades to come.
Love Song For A Snowman (2014) - Evin
Written By Evin Clinger and Jeff Savage
The newest addition to this list is by Singer/Songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, Evin, who wrote Love Song For A Snowman, when she was barely 18-years old. Produced and co-written by Jeff Savage of Jars of Clay/Natalie Imbruglia fame, its infectious melody, and irresistible chorus has quickly made this record a holiday mainstay around the globe. "I initially got the idea when I was sitting in my living room with Jeff (Savage) and my mom. We were brainstorming ideas, and had Disney's Frozen on mute. I saw Olaf and said jokingly, out loud, 'What if I wrote a love song to Olaf?!'" Since its initial 2014 release, Evin has been invited each year to showcase Love Song For A Snowman during high-profile, national televised performances. Love Song For A Snowman was quickly joined by Evin's second holiday hit, Boyfriend For Christmas in 2015. Evin's newest holiday single, Sleigh Bells Slay, was released on November 24, 2017.
All I Want For Christmas Is You (1994) - Mariah Carey
Written by Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff
Released by Columbia Records on November 1st, 1994, All I Want For Christmas Is You quickly became a holiday mainstay, racing to the top of the Billboard charts. Met with critical acclaim, The New Yorker called it "one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday canon." The song was a commercial smash, topping the charts in the United States, the Netherlands and Hungary, reaching number two in Australia, Norway, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Global sales of the chart topper exceed 18 million, and in 2013, it was reported that All I Want For Christmas Is You had generated royalties of over 50-Million Dollars. According to The Daily Herald, All I Want for Christmas Is You is the most popular and most played Christmas song of the decade in the United Kingdom. Carey released a children's book based on All I Want for Christmas Is You on November 10, 2015.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays (1998) - *NSYNC
Written by JC Chasez, Veit Renn, Justin Timberlake and Vincent Degiorgio
RCA Records released Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays on November 29, 1998 just in time for the 1998 Holiday season, helping to catapult *NSYNC into mega-stardom, alongside their self-titled debut, released earlier that year. It was their first and only single from their Holiday album, Home For Christmas, which was certified Double-Platinum in the US. It was also released as the second single from their European release The Winter Album. In 2002, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays was re-released in the UK, as a part of the reimagined The Meaning Of Christmas. Hailed as an instant holiday classic, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays featured an over-the-top music video, with painfully obvious green screen usage, and Diff'rent Strokes icon, Gary Coleman. The video left a sleigh load of questions, (Where's Joey's winter coat!? Did Santa's stomach bug ever go away!?) many of which will probably never be answered. Out of all the boy-band holiday records, this one is probably the most played, and nearly universally recognized.
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (1944) - Judy Garland
Written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas was written specifically for Judy Garland, who introduced this instant classic in 1944. Garland's version was an immediate hit, and reached No. 27 on the Billboard charts. It was featured in the MGM musical, Meet Me In St. Louis, and was originally penned in a much more melancholy fashion. Beginning at Garland's insistence, Hugh Martin began changing the original lyrics, to reflect a more happy and festive tone. In 1957, Frank Sinatra recorded another iconic version of the song. Sinatra also requested that the songs mood be lightened up. "The name of my album is A Jolly Christmas. Do you think you could jolly up that line for me?", Sinatra inquired. Since 1944, more than 50 notable versions of this song have been recorded by artists such as Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Perry Como, Brenda Lee, Michael Bublé and Pentatonix.
Some of the original lyrics that were penned by Martin were rejected before filming began. They were:
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last
Next year we may all be living in the past
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Pop that champagne cork
Next year we may all be living in New York
No good times like the olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us no more
But at least we all will be together
If the Lord allows
From now on, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now
Merry Christmas Darling (1970) - The Carpenters
Written by Richard Carpenter and Frank Pooler
Released on November 20, 1970 by A&M Records, Merry Christmas Darling became a massive hit for The Carpenters, and an instant holiday classic. The single went to number one on Billboard's Christmas singles chart in 1970, and did so again in 1971 and 1973. Richard Carpenter calls the original vocal for Merry Christmas Darling one of his sister, the late Karen Carpenters "very best." Merry Christmas Darling was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, for U.S. sales of over 500,000 copies.
Richard Carpenter composed the music for this song in 1966 when he was just 19 years old. Frank Pooler had written the lyrics twenty years earlier, in 1946, when he was only 20 years old. The song Pooler had written was intended to be a Christmas gift for his girlfriend, whom he was missing while being away from her during a visit with his parents during the holidays. Their relationship ended before he was able present it to her. Pooler filed the lyrics away and quickly forgot about them. Twenty years later, when Richard and Karen Carpenter sought Pooler's advice for ideas on a new Christmas song for their holiday set, he remembered Merry Christmas Darling. After showing the lyrics to Richard Carpenter, Carpenter quickly wrote a new melody in about 15 minutes. Merry Christmas Darling was featured in the 1978 holiday special, The Carpenters: A Christmas Portrait. It was Richard and Karen Carpenter's fourth TV special and second and final one for Christmas. Merry Christmas Darling has been included in several of The Carpenters holiday offerings, including Christmas Portrait and Christmas Collection, and has gone on to become one of the most beloved Christmas songs of all-time.
Somewhere In My Memory (1990) - John Williams
Written by John Williams
Somewhere In My Memory was released in 1990, as part of the Home Alone soundtrack, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score. Somewhere In My Memory was the film's signature song, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media. It was the backbone for the entire score to Home Alone, and became an instant holiday classic. Somewhere In My Memory invokes so many feelings of spending times with loved ones, it's hard to resist lyrics like these:
Candles in the window,
Shadows painting the ceiling,
Gazing at the fire glow,
Feeling that gingerbread feeling.
I can see.
Somewhere In My Memory has been covered by other notable artists, such as Bette Midler, The Boston Pops Orchestra and Michael W. Smith.
It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (1963) - Andy Williams
Written by Edward Pola and George Wyle
Released on October 14, 1963, Andy Williams' It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year has become one of the most celebrated Christmas songs of all-time. Williams first performed the song on The Andy Williams Show's second holiday special, aptly named Most Wonderful Time Of The Year. The song became an instant holiday classic, and is one of the best-selling, and most recognizable of all holiday songs. The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year is one of the Top 3 most-played songs on all of U.S. radio, during the holidays, and was released on Williams' first of EIGHT Christmas albums. When Columbia records released The Andy Williams Christmas Album in 1963, they chose Williams' cover of White Christmas as the promotional single for the album, believing it would be the breakout single to drive the albums' sales. The Andy Williams Christmas Album has sold more than 2 million copies worldwide.
From 1963 to 1973, Billboard published special weekly Christmas Albums and Christmas Singles sales charts. For all five weeks that these special charts were published in 1963 (for the weeks ending November 30, 1963 through December 28, 1963), The Andy Williams Christmas Album was the number one selling Christmas album, while Williams' cover of White Christmas was the number one selling Christmas single. The Andy Williams Christmas Album spent three weeks as the number one selling Christmas album during the holiday season of 1964, and one week as the number one selling Christmas album during the holiday season of 1965. It charted on Billboard's Christmas Albums chart at least one week for each of the years that the chart was published.
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You) (1946) - Nat King Cole
Written by Mel Torme and Bob Wells
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You) was written by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells in 1944 and was first recorded by The King Cole Trio in 1946, becoming an instant holiday classic, and one of the most recognizable holiday songs in the world. The song was re-recorded in stereo with a full orchestra conducted by Ralph Carmichael using the same arrangement for Nat King Cole's The Christmas Song album in 1961. According to Tormé, the song was written during a blistering hot summer. In an effort to "stay cool by thinking cool", the world's most-performed Christmas song was born. "I saw a spiral pad on his (Wells') piano with four lines written in pencil", Tormé recalled. "They started, 'Chestnuts roasting..., Jack Frost nipping..., Yuletide carols..., Folks dressed up like Eskimos.' Bob didn't think he was writing a song lyric. He said he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off. Forty minutes later that song was written. I wrote all the music and some of the lyrics." The Christmas Song was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1974, and has been covered by more than 200 of the world's most famous recording artists, including Bing Crosby, Etta James, Josh Groban, and Stevie Wonder.
The very first recording of The Christmas Song was done at WMCA Radio Studios in New York City, on a hot, summer day in June of 1946, however this version was not issued until 1989, when it was accidentally included on the various-artists compilation Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits (1935–1954). Cole's fourth, and final recording of The Christmas Song was recorded at Capitol Studios, New York City, on March 30, 1961.
Last Christmas (1984) - Wham!
Written by George Michael
Last Christmas was released on December 3rd, 1984 as a double A-side, with Everything She Wants, and exploded onto the Christmas scene worldwide, making it an instant holiday classic. Written and produced by George Michael, Last Christmas has never left the holiday landscape, since its release more than 30-years ago. The hit single has sold over 5-million copies worldwide, and is frequently the number one streamed holiday song in the U.K., year after year. In Germany, the song is the most successful Christmas single of all-time, having spent 124 weeks on the German Singles Chart and attained a peak position of number 4. It has charted every year since 1997. The accompanying video for the single has more than 236 million plays on YouTube. Wham! donated all of their Last Christmas/Everything She Wants royalties to the Ethiopian famine. It's worth noting that George Michael was also involved in the massive charity Christmas project Band-Aid, that same year. Band-Aid released Do They Know It's Christmas the same day as Last Christmas and the pair of songs spent the entire holiday 1984 season at number one and number two on the charts.
...and, there you have it. 12 Iconic Christmas Songs That Became Instant Holiday Classics. Now, it's time to light the fire, wrap the presents, and cozy up next to the person you love. What are your favorite holiday songs. Let me know if I missed your favorite in the comments. From all of us here at PopWrapped, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to YOU!