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This 8 line song that paints a picture of holiday nostalgia was written by Irving Berlin. It was originally about a New Yorker stranded in sunny California during Christmas. Bing recorded it for the movie Holiday Inn with the Kim Darby Singers and the John Scott Trotter Orchestra on May 29, 1942 in 18 minutes (Crosby starred in the movie with Fred Astaire). Bing's record producer Jack Kapp thought that original opening verse about the sun, the palm trees in Beverly Hills and it being December the 24th would be meaningless outside of the film and persuaded Bing not to release it, and he never did. The song went on to win the Best Song Academy Award of 1942.
Bing rerecorded the song on March 19,1947, again with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra because the original masters had been worn out from all the pressings, and this is the version that became a holiday tradition. Bing performed the song again in White Christmas, his 1954 film co-starring Danny Kaye.
Historically this is the biggest selling Christmas song of all time. It was the biggest selling song of all time, going back and forth with Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock
," until Elton John released his tribute to Princess Diana - "Candle In The Wind
This has the distinction of marking the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. As the North Vietnamese surrounded Saigon, an evacuation plan was put into effect to bring the remaining Americans to safety. Their cue to evacuate was when a radio announcement stating that the temperature in Saigon was "105 degrees and rising," and followed by the playing of Bing Crosby's "White Christmas." That was the signal for the mad dash to the US Embassy where helicopters were waiting.
The original Drifters with Clyde McPhatter as their lead vocalist recorded their Doo-Wop version in November 1953. It hit #2 on the R&B charts in 1954, and made the Pop charts in 1955. The deep bass-tenor voice you hear on this version was Bill Pinkney, who was an early member of the group. (thanks, Jeff - Boston, MA, for all above)
In both the movie Holiday Inn and the movie White Christmas, the first verse is cut out. As a result, if asked to sing the song most people will start out, "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas..." instead of "The sun is shining, the grass is green..." There are very few copies of Bing Crosby singing the entire song. (thanks, Jenie - Naples, Italy)
This was originally #1 for 14 weeks and it made the Pop charts for 20 Christmas seasons, the most times a record has entered the US chart. It is the 2nd best seller of all time and the most recorded Christmas song of all time. Its been a hit for 8 different acts, the 2nd most after "Unchained Melody."
Elvis Presley recorded this song in 1957 along with other holiday standards for his Elvis' Christmas Album. Most songwriters dream of having Elvis record their songs, but Irving Berlin spoke out against the King's cover, calling it a "profane parody of his cherished yuletide standard" and claiming that his staff was ordered to call radio stations and ask them not to play it. There's a chance that Berlin was simply drumming up publicity for his song, as there was nothing all that offensive about the Elvis version, and The Drifters had already done an R&B version.
Elvis doing Christmas songs did rub some people the wrong way, but much of the controversy was manufactured, helping Elvis' Christmas Album stay at #1 for an amazing five weeks in late 1957 and early 1958. The best publicity stunt may have been the one pulled off by the Portland, Oregon radio station KEX, which refused to play the song and sparked a debate among listeners as to the merits of Presley's Chirstmas output. Their disc jockey Al Priddy played the song on a Sunday, and was "fired" the next day, making national news - Priddy even played the phone call of his firing on the air before he left. The station continued to play up the incident, and brought Priddy back two weeks later, claiming that overwhelming listener support made them decide to bring him back.
Phil Spector put this as the first track on his 1963 Christmas album A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, which was unfortunately released on November 22, 1963 - the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Spector had Darlene Love sing this one, and he used many of his favorite Los Angeles session musicians on the album, including a then unknown Cher. The sessions were notoriously difficult, with Cher explaining, "Philip was just insane about the Christmas album. We just never left the studio. I mean, you went home to take a shower, you came back. We didn't go home for six weeks, we just were there. I had just turned 17, and I'm thinking, How are all these old people doing this? I am dying, I can hardly drag myself outta bed. How are these old guys doing it?"
Lady Gaga recorded a jazzy version for her 2011 A Very Gaga Holiday EP. Her take includes an original verse in which she jokes, "O.K., I suppose it's not very white outside yet."
The Canadian superstar talks about his sudden rise to fame, and tells the stories behind his hits "Sunglasses At Night," "Boy In The Box" and "Never Surrender."
Kerry Livgren of Kansas
In this talk from the '80s, the Kansas frontman talks turning to God and writing "Dust In The Wind."
Mike Watt - "History Lesson, Pt. 2"
Mike Watt of the Minutemen tells the story of the song that became an Indie Rock touchstone. It's also the story of what Mike calls "The Movement."