Kalpana Kalpana (Editor)

White Christmas (song)

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
7-inch 10-inch

Christmas pop

"Let's Start the New Year Right" "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"

1942, 1945, 1950, 1955, 1983

May 29, 1942 March 19, 1947

3:02 (1942 recording) 3:04 (1947 recording)

"White Christmas" is a 1942 Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. According to the Guinness World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 100 million copies worldwide. Other versions of the song, along with Crosby's, have sold over 150 million copies.



Accounts vary as to when and where Berlin wrote the song. One story is that he wrote it in 1940, in warm La Quinta, California, while staying at the La Quinta Hotel, a frequent Hollywood retreat also favored by writer-director-producer Frank Capra, although the Arizona Biltmore also claims the song was written there. He often stayed up all night writing—he told his secretary, "Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I've ever written—heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written!"

Bing Crosby version

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 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. He subsequently recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers and Chorus for Decca Records in just 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 and solidified the fact that there could be commercially successful secular Christmas songs—in this case, written by a Jewish-American songwriter, who also wrote "God Bless America."

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. A few weeks after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Crosby introduced “White Christmas” on a Christmas Day broadcast. 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, 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 separate 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.)

The version most often heard today on 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.

Sales figures

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. 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 or is not 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, in their estimation, sold at least 50 million copies, and that Elton John's recording of "Candle in the Wind 1997" has sold 33 million, making Crosby's recording the best-selling single of all time. 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."

Historic influence

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 finished at No. 5 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.

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.

Original verse

Irving Berlin's opening verse is often dropped in recordings, but is included on A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records, sung by Darlene Love, on Barbra Streisand's A Christmas Album, on the Carpenters' Christmas Portrait sung by Karen Carpenter, on Bette Midler's Cool Yule, on Libera's Christmas Album and on Crash Test Dummies' Jingle All the Way.

Other notable versions

"White Christmas" is the most-recorded Christmas song; there have been more than 500 recorded versions of the song, in several different languages.


  • Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra (with Bob Carroll on lead vocal) released a version (Capitol F-124) that reached No. 16 on Billboard magazine's pop singles chart
  • Charlie Spivak and his Orchestra (with Garry Stevens on lead vocal) released a version that reached No. 18 on Billboard's pop singles chart
  • Freddy Martin and his Orchestra (with Clyde Rogers on lead vocal), reaching No. 20 on Billboard's pop singles chart (and again in December 1945, reaching No. 16)
  • 1944
  • Frank Sinatra (with backing orchestration under the direction of Axel Stordahl) reaching No. 7 on Billboard's pop singles chart (two more times: December 1945, No. 5; December 1946, No. 6)
  • 1946
  • Jo Stafford (with backing vocals by the Lyn Murray Singers and backing orchestration by Paul Weston) reaching No. 9 on Billboard's pop singles chart
  • 1947
  • Eddy Howard and his Orchestra released a version that reached No. 21 on Billboard magazine's pop singles chart.
  • Perry Como (with backing orchestration by Lloyd Shaffer) reaching No. 23 on Billboard's pop singles chart
  • Harry James on Columbia 37955 with vocals by Marion Morgan
  • 1949
  • The Ravens, reaching No. 9 on Billboard's Rhythm & Blues Records chart in January 1949
  • Ernest Tubb (with female backing vocals by The Troubadettes) reaching No. 7 on Billboard's Country & Western Records chart
  • 1950s

  • On July 15, Eddie Fisher with Hugo Winterhalter's orchestra & chorus recorded a version at Manhattan Center, New York; released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-4910 (in USA) and by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalog number B 10779 and JO 420
  • Mantovani and His orchestra, reaching No. 23 on Billboard magazine's pop singles chart
  • 1954
  • The Drifters showcased the talents of lead singer Clyde McPhatter and the bass vocals of Bill Pinkney, peaking at No. 2 on Billboard's Rhythm & Blues Records chart (returned to the same chart in the next two years)
  • Frank Sinatra (with backing orchestration by Nelson Riddle) for a holiday single on Capitol Records
  • 1957
  • Elvis Presley on his first Christmas album, Elvis' Christmas Album
  • 1958
  • Johnny Mathis on his first Christmas album, Merry Christmas
  • 1959
  • Perry Como on his album Season's Greetings from Perry Como
  • The Ray Conniff Singers on the album Christmas with Conniff
  • Dean Martin on his album A Winter Romance
  • 1960s

  • Ella Fitzgerald on her album Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas
  • 1961
  • Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., mostly known as David Seville, covered the song for the first Christmas album by Alvin and the Chipmunks, Christmas with The Chipmunks
  • 1963
  • Robert Goulet on his album This Christmas I Spend with You
  • Andy Williams on his first Christmas album, The Andy Williams Christmas Album, reaching No. 1 on Billboard's special, year-end, weekly Christmas Singles chart (the B-side of the single contained Williams's version of "The Christmas Song"), and again in 1967, reaching No. 22
  • Darlene Love on the Phil Spector-produced album, A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records
  • Smokey Robinson & the Miracles on the album, Christmas with the Miracles
  • Jimmy McGriff on his album Christmas with McGriff
  • Jim Reeves on his album Twelve Songs of Christmas
  • 1964
  • The Beach Boys on The Beach Boys' Christmas Album
  • Doris Day on The Doris Day Christmas Album
  • Jack Jones on The Jack Jones Christmas Album
  • Jo Stafford on her album The Joyful Season
  • Jerry Vale on the album Christmas Greetings from Jerry Vale
  • 1965
  • The Supremes on the album Merry Christmas
  • Bob Marley with the Wailers as a single (later appeared on his compilation album Destiny: Rare Ska Sides from Studio 1)
  • 1966
  • Loretta Lynn on her album Country Christmas
  • Kenny Burrell on his album Have Yourself a Soulful Little Christmas
  • Eydie Gorme, backed by Trio Los Panchos, with a Spanish language version on the album Navidad Means Christmas
  • Dean Martin on The Dean Martin Christmas Album
  • Kate Smith on The Kate Smith Christmas Album
  • 1967
  • Barbra Streisand on A Christmas Album, contains the seldom-heard verse
  • 1968
  • Tony Bennett on Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album
  • Otis Redding as a single (posthumously), and reached No. 12 on the Christmas Singles chart
  • Lana Cantrell on the various-artists album Christmas Day with Colonel Sanders
  • Tennessee Ernie Ford on his LP O Come, All ye Faithful
  • 1970s

  • The Partridge Family on the album A Partridge Family Christmas Card
  • 1972
  • Keith Lamb with a reggae version with his band Hush in December 1972 (EPW 263) for Warner for an EP entitled Hush Power
  • 1975
  • John Denver as a bonus track on the 1998 CD reissue of the album Rocky Mountain Christmas
  • 1979
  • Willie Nelson on his album Pretty Paper
  • Stiff Little Fingers as part of the "Silly Encores" B-side to their UK 7" single "At the Edge"
  • 1980s

  • Slim Whitman on the Epic album Christmas With Slim Whitman
  • Darts, reaching No. 48 on the UK singles chart
  • 1981
  • Boney M. with a reggae-version on Christmas Album
  • 1984
  • Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton on their album Once Upon a Christmas
  • 1985
  • The Canadian Brass with an instrumental version for the album, A Canadian Brass Christmas
  • 1989
  • New Kids on the Block on the album Merry, Merry Christmas
  • 1990s

  • John Denver on his album Christmas, Like a Lullaby
  • 1992
  • Neil Diamond with a doo-wop version for The Christmas Album
  • Michael Bolton on his non-holiday album Timeless: The Classics, reaching No. 73 on Billboard's Hot 100 Airplay chart in January 1993
  • Garth Brooks on his first holiday album, Beyond the Season, reaching No. 70 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart in January 1995
  • 1993
  • Aaron Neville on his album Soulful Christmas
  • 1994
  • Kenny G on his Miracles: The Holiday Album
  • 1995
  • Glen Campbell on his album Christmas with Glen Campbell
  • Michie Tomizawa (as Sailor Mars) on the album Sailor Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon SuperS: Christmas For You
  • 1998
  • Martina McBride on her album White Christmas, charting twice, reaching No. 75 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart in 1999, and No. 62 on the same chart in 2000
  • Chicago on their Chicago XXV: The Christmas Album
  • 1999
  • A1 with an a cappella version on their "Ready or Not/Everytime" CD single
  • 2000s

  • Rockapella on the album Christmas
  • Linda Ronstadt on her album A Merry Little Christmas
  • Country singer Billy Gilman on his album, Classic Christmas
  • 2001
  • Destiny's Child on the album 8 Days of Christmas
  • Mannheim Steamroller on the album Christmas Extraordinaire
  • 2002
  • Crash Test Dummies on the album Jingle All The Way
  • 2003
  • Bette Midler on the non-holiday album Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook, reaching No. 15 on Billboard's Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart
  • Michael Bublé on his five-track EP Let It Snow
  • The Moody Blues on the seasonal album December
  • 2004
  • LeAnn Rimes on her album What a Wonderful World
  • Dionne Warwick on her album My Favorite Time of the Year
  • Jazz guitarist Royce Campbell on his album A Jazz Guitar Christmas
  • Tina Sugandh, for the Columbia/Sony film Christmas With the Kranks with Indian/Bollywood elements added to the song
  • 2005
  • Girls Aloud on the Chemistry Christmas bonus disc
  • Diana Krall on her album Christmas Songs
  • Dutch singer René Froger on his album Pure Christmas (re-released as Happy Christmas in 2009)
  • 2006
  • Twisted Sister, featuring Doro Pesch, on the album A Twisted Christmas, with German/English lyrics
  • Aimee Mann on her holiday album One More Drifter in the Snow
  • 2007
  • Taylor Swift on her EP Sounds of the Season: The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection
  • 2008
  • Rascal Flatts, as a bonus track on a limited-edition version of the album Greatest Hits Volume 1
  • Neil Sedaka on his album The Miracle of Christmas
  • Al Jarreau on his album Christmas
  • Edyta Górniak on her album, Zakochaj się na Święta w kolędach (Fall in love for Christmas in carols), with Polish/English lyrics
  • Italian singer Irene Grandi with an Italian version titled "Bianco Natale", for her Christmas album, Canzoni per Natale
  • 2009
  • Andrea Bocelli on his album My Christmas, reaching No. 16 on the Portuguese Singles Chart
  • Ray Stevens on his album Ray Stevens Christmas
  • Marco Mengoni on the compilation album X Factor – The Christmas Album; despite not being released as a single, the song charted at No. 13 on the Italian Singles Chart, based on digital downloads of the track
  • 2010–present

  • Norwegian World Idol winner Kurt Nilsen on his album Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  • 2011
  • Deana Martin and Andy Williams in a duet on her album, White Christmas released by Big Fish Records
  • Michael Bublé in a duet featuring Shania Twain on his album, Christmas
  • Sheryl Crow on her album Home for Christmas, with a walking bass and an enigmatic, subversive twist
  • Jackie Evancho on her album Heavenly Christmas
  • Lady Gaga on her TV special, A Very Gaga Thanksgiving, which was also included as one of four tracks on her holiday EP, A Very Gaga Holiday with an additional self-created verse
  • 2012
  • Ivi Adamou on her album Christmas with Ivi Adamou
  • Cee Lo Green on his holiday album Cee Lo's Magic Moment
  • Rod Stewart on his album, Merry Christmas, Baby
  • Glee cast members Darren Criss and Chris Colfer on the Christmas episode "Glee, Actually"
  • Blake Shelton on his album Cheers, It's Christmas
  • Andrea Densley recorded a big-band, swing version on her 5-track Christmas EP White Christmas
  • 2013
  • Bad Religion on the album Christmas Songs
  • Kelly Clarkson on her first holiday album, Wrapped in Red, which was released as the first promotional single from the album
  • Leona Lewis on her album Christmas, with Love
  • Erasure on the holiday album Snow Globe
  • Contemporary Christian group Sidewalk Prophets on the album Merry Christmas to You
  • 2014
  • Darius Rucker on his album Home for the Holidays
  • Idina Menzel on her album Holiday Wishes
  • Hayden Panettiere on the Nashville album Christmas With Nashville
  • 2015
  • Donna Burke and Stefanie Joosten in the digital download format
  • The Hot Sardines on their debut album
  • 2016
  • Pentatonix featuring The Manhattan Transfer on the album A Pentatonix Christmas
  • Sarah McLachlan on her holiday album Wonderland
  • Laura Pausini with English, Spanish and French versions on her album Laura Xmas
  • References

    White Christmas (song) Wikipedia

    Similar Topics