There's no way we can shock you with this one…
"White Christmas" by Bing Crosby stands alone as this
writer/musicologist's choice as the #1 Christmas song of all time.
It's also the #3 movie song of all time in addition to being our
Christmas National Anthem. It's spent the most total weeks on the pop
charts with 72. Only "How Do I Live" by LeAnn Rimes with has been able
to come even close to challenging this record, spending 66 total weeks
on the chart. In addition, "White Christmas" has spent the most total
weeks in the Top 40 (58) and Top 10 (35). Ironically, the version
we're most familiar with wasn't the 1942 original, but rather a
re-recording done in 1947. So great was this song that a movie of the
same title starring Der Binger and Rosemary Clooney came out in 1954,
a dozen years after the song's release.
Plus, "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby is believed to be one of the
three biggest selling singles of all time. Accurate sales figures have
always been difficult to ascertain. But, interestingly, when he was
alive in the early 1970's, Crosby claimed that his biggest selling
single wasn't "White Christmas," but rather, "Silent Night"--and by a
hefty margin. Perhaps as many as five million copies. Still, it's
believed that these two Crosby singles have sold well over 30 million
copies and perhaps as many as 40 million over the years. The only
single that can challenge the sales power of those two singles is
Elton John's "Candle In The Wind 1997," which for sure has surpassed
the 31 million level.
With the exception of 1952 and 1953, this recording has made the pop
charts EVERY year from the year it was released in 1942 to 1962. It
was originally recorded in late May, 1942, for the soundtrack of the
movie "Holiday Inn." It won the Oscar for Best Movie Song of 1942.
Irving Berlin wrote it along with other classics like "God Bless
America" and "Easter Parade."
Irving Berlin wasn't excited when he heard the Elvis Presley version
of the song. He reportedly went on a phone-call-making crusade
demanding that radio stations not play the version on Elvis' 1957
Christmas. Station heads must've been listening. On December 12, 1957,
radio station KEX in Portland fired DJ Al Priddy for violating station
policy and playing Elvis' "White Christmas.”…
Amazingly, I’ve learned that Irving Berlin also hated the only version
of “White Christmas” to make the pop chart for a group in 1955…
Michael Bolton's version of "White Christmas" charted on the Billboard
Top 40 radio monitor in 1993. "American Top 40" has played two
versions as Long Distance Dedications--by Darlene Love and New Kids On
Here are just a few of the many others to have recorded "White
Christmas": Air Supply, Eddy Arnold, Pat Boone, the Boston Pops
Orchestra, the Chipmonks, Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como, Ray Conniff,
Cowboy Copas, Vic Damone, Nelson Eddy, Percy Faith, Jose Feliciano,
Gracie Fields, Eddie Fisher, Jackie Gleason, Merle Haggard, Al
Hibbler, Eddy Howard, the Ink Spots, Mahalia Jackson, Harry James,
Gordon Jenkins, Sammy Kaye, the Lennon Sisters, Guy Lombardo, Henry
Mancini, Barry Manilow, Mantovani, Dean Martin, Johnny Mathis, Mitch
Miller, Jim Nabors, Willie Nelson, the Osmonds, the Partridge Family,
Les Paul and Mary Ford, Otis Redding, Kenny Rogers, the Salsoul
Orchestra, Doc Severinsen, the Voices Of Watler Schumann, Artie Shaw,
Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra, Kate Smith, Jo Stafford, Ray Stevens,
Barbra Streisand, the Supremes, the Temptations, Mel Torme, Ernest
Tubb, Billy Vaughn, Bobby Vee, the Ventures, Fred Waring, Lawrence
Welk, Kitty Wells, Slim Whitman, Andy Williams, Roger Williams, Hugo
Winterhalter and Tammy Wynette.
P.S. Irving Berlin didn’t even celebrate Christmas…
CHRISTMAS SONG #2: SILENT NIGHT--BING CROSBY, 1935
You shouldn't be.
When "American Top 40" played its two Christmas countdown specials in 1971 and 1973, both ended the same way....with a record that wasn't in the rankings. "Silent Night" by Bing Crosby. The record has never charted higher than #54...but that was 1957, a full 22 years AFTER the single was released.
Casey Kasem explained that he was playing "Silent Night" last on the show because there was no other place for it to be aired. He also noted that Bing Crosby had claimed that "Silent Night" was his best selling single, beating the nearest rival by some five million records.
How many copies has "Silent Night" sold over the years? At least 30 million. Perhaps 35 million. On the first of two Christmas countdown shows on "American Top 40," Casey Kasem claimed it's sold about 50 million copies. Certainly it's the biggest selling single to have never made the Top 40. In recent years, sources claim that Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" is the biggest selling single ever with over 50 million copies. We'll never know the actual figures for sure.
One reason for the lack of chart action for Crosby's "Silent Night" is because of its being recorded in 1935. That meant no singles chart action for the record's first five Christmas seasons. The Billboard singles chart didn't begin until July, 1940.
"Silent Night" ranks among the most popular Christmas carols of all time. As Casey explained on his countdown shows the weekend of December 16, 2000, Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr co-wrote "Silent Night" in 1818...because their Austrian Alps church organ was broken. Gruber started by strumming the song on a guitar. He originally called it "Song From Heaven." Mohr added lyrics. The organ fixer heard it and loved it...and spread the word. By the 1840's, the song was popular all over Austria. The Strasser Sisters and their brother, Joseph, helped propel the song to world-wide acclaim. The King and Queen of Saxony enjoyed the song so much they asked the Strassers to sing it for their children.
Elvis Presley sang an extremely religious version of "Silent Night" on his 1957 Christmas album. That's the version of the song Rob Durkee's family's heard the most over the years. As we've mentioned earlier, we recommend you check out that CD that has Elvis' photo being part of a Christmas present, with plenty of red in the background.
There's no way we can list all the versions of "Silent Night" to have been recorded. However, here's a partial list: Air Supply, the Ames Brothers, Eddie Arnold, Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Elvin Bishop, Bon Jovi (honest!), Pat Boone, the Boston Pops Orchestra, the Carpenters, Johnny Cash, the Chipmonks, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Ray Conniff, Vic Damone, John Denver (solo and with the Muppets), Jose Feliciano, Ferrante And Teicher, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Eydie Gorme, Merle Haggard, Engelbert Humperdinck, Mahalia Jackson, Gladys Knight And The Pips, Mario Lanza, Julius LaRosa, the Lennon Sisters, the Lettermen, the Norman Luboff Choir, Barry Manilow, Mantovani, Dean Martin, Al Martino, Johnny Mathis, Mitch Miller, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Stevie Nicks, the Orioles, the Osmonds, Charley Pride, Kenny Rogers (solo and with Dolly Parton), Roy Rogers, Rotary Connection, the Salsoul Orchestra, Simon And Garfunkel, Frank Sinatra, Kate Smith, Phil Spector, Barbra Streisand, the Temptations, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Jerry Vale, Billy Vaughn, Bobby Vee, Fred Waring, Baby Washington, Dinah Washington, Lawrence Welk, Slim Whitman, Andy Williams and Paul Whiteman.
You get the idea.