Thursday, December 17, 2009

Musical Art: America’s Favorite Song for The Holidays

This time of year Holiday music seems to be everywhere. From songs to symphonies, from sacred to secular, from sentimental to silly, your choices are endless.

As we browse this musical art form, we note that the best-selling record of all time is Bing Crosby’s 1942 recording of “White Christmas” written by Irving Berlin.

Berlin, a Russian immigrant, was born Israel Baline. When Berlin penned this Christmas classic, he was already a recognized American songwriting genius. His credits included hits like “God Bless America,” “Blue Skies,” “How Deep Is the Ocean” and hundreds more.

For “White Christmas,” Berlin uses just 54 wistful words to express an optimistic yearning for happier times. The song was originally intended as escapist Depression-era fare—a mournful satire, according a Wall Street Journal article. But instead Berlin decided to use it for the movie "Holiday Inn," which was in production when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Just days later, on Dec. 24, 1941, Crosby performed it publicly for the first time on the "Kraft Music Hall" radio program. The following September the Decca 78 rpm was released. According to WSJ’s Roy J. Harris, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” sold more than 50 million records, with album and other sales taking the total above 100 million.

“What had inspired Berlin?,” Harris asks. “As a Jewish youth in Brooklyn, he experienced Christmas as an outsider, at neighbors' homes. But Berlin loved Christmastime, hating only how his film work often made for holidays away from his family back East.” With the nation at war, much of America shared that melancholy sentiment.

In 1942, American poet Carl Sandburg wrote: “This feeling is caught in the song on a thousand juke boxes and whistled in streets and homes, 'I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas.' When we sing that song we don't hate anybody. Away down under, this latest hit of Irving Berlin catches us where we love peace."

On that note, we at BINDERS sing out our Best Wishes to you for a Happy Holiday Season!

1 comment:

  1. What an informative, warm, culturally specific entry for Christmas! I learned a lot about White Christmas, and reflected on how the holidays can be a mirror of the times. Keep up these excellent blog pieces -- and Happy Holidays to everyone at Binders!