What's the Meaning of "Sweet Home Alabama"? Not as well known is the fact that Irving Berlin wrote the song. Izzy, as Irving was then called, sold newspapers and delivered telegrams during grammar school. If you buy from a link, we may earn a commission. Written by Irving Berlin and made famous by Bing Crosby, White Christmas is the quintessential Christmas song of mid-20th century American popular music. “White Christmas” – the song, is the most popular song of all time and it was written by a Jewish man during the summer in California. A 16-bar verse led into a 32-bar chorus, and with almost all songs it was the chorus that people remembered. According to Jody Rosen, author of White Christmas: The Story of an American Song, the song may have been drafted in or near Los Angeles, but it was undoubtedly finished in New York or at the Berlin family’s weekend house in the Catskills. They heard White Christmas not as a spoof but as a longing for days “just like the ones I used to know.”  The lyrics took on a whole new meaning for soldiers on their way overseas. The first time the song was introduced to his staff was on January 8, 1940. "White Christmas" the song was also featured in the successful Crosby/Astaire film "Holiday Inn" in 1942. He liked it so much he told a secretary “I’ve just written a new song. Irving Berlin and Bing Crosby were forever united by what turned out to be one of the best decisions either of them ever made. When the sheet music came back from the publisher, there was a typo: I. Baline became I. Berlin. With Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen. White Christmas is a Christmas song strongly connected with Bing Crosby. But his time at the Pelham Café gave him invaluable experience. For composer Berlin — who also wrote “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and “God Bless America” — “White Christmas” was an unexpected hit. He called these his “trunk songs.”. White Christmas is a 1954 American musical film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen.Filmed in Technicolor, it features the songs of Irving Berlin, including a new version of the title song, "White Christmas", introduced by Crosby in the 1942 film Holiday Inn.. … He began composing with a partner, and because he performed what he wrote, he learned about audience reaction and what makes a song a crowd-pleaser. Pearl Harbor had been attacked just a few weeks before. In the midst of planning for Holiday Inn, Berlin, Crosby, and all Americans were rocked by national tragedy. Irving Berlin knew his recently finished song, White Christmas, was a good one. He was the youngest of eight children, six of whom emigrated with their parents to the U.S. in 1893. White Christmas is the greatest classic Christmas movie ever made, imho. On December 7, 1941, a surprise attack by the Japanese did unfathomable damage and caused great loss of life at the American port at Pearl Harbor. After his father died in 1901, Izzy left school and supported himself as a “song plugger.” (Sheet music companies hired “buskers” or “song pluggers” to travel the city and perform new songs in saloons, vaudeville theaters, and on street corners. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site. He wrote "White Christmas" for a musical that eventually morphed into the movie Holiday Inn and ended up winning an Academy Award for the song. What caught Berlin by surprise, however, were the requests for White Christmas on radio starting in the early fall. According to Erskine Johnson (Los Angeles Mirror, December 21, 1954), the melody was written in August 1938, then left on the shelf for four years (actually two years) until Berlin was signed by Paramount to write Holiday Inn. When people today talk about White Christmas, the conversation usually begins with, “Did you know it was written in Beverly Hills?” or “…Palm Springs?” The thought of this ballad to a wintry white holiday being written by a pool in 80-degree weather seems to fascinate. For this reason, several times I tried to cut it out of the show, but these guys just hollered for it. Irving Berlin (1880-1989) was born Israel Baline in Tyumen (part of western Siberia). White Christmas (uncredited) Words and Music by Irving Berlin Sung by Bing Crosby Reprised during the finale by Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and … 9. White Christmas. Like writers of all types, Berlin had a habit of writing something and putting it away if he wasn’t satisfied. Country Living participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites. White Christmas is a popular song which was written by Irving Berlin. In the film, the song begins with this verse: The sun is shining, the grass is green. This 8-line song that paints a picture of holiday nostalgia was written by Irving Berlin for the 1942 movie Holiday Inn, where Bing Crosby sings it from the perspective of a New Yorker stranded in sunny California during Christmas. The film helped earn “White Christmas” the Oscar for Best Song in 1943, and over the course of the 1940s the song climbed to #1 on the charts several times. On November 21, White Christmas began a 10-week run on top of the Hit Parade. Taysha Murtaugh was the Lifestyle Editor at CountryLiving.com. "White Christmas" is a holiday tradition beloved by millions. The set on the Paramount lot was refurbished for the next Christmas classic. This became the start of speculation as to where Berlin was when he wrote the song. President Franklin Roosevelt summoned his military leaders to the White House and ordered a bombing raid on Japan. Clearly, they identified with the wistful lyrics about holidays at home. Your email address will not be published. Berlin—ever the savvy song plugger–was happy about this as he planned a push for White Christmas closer to the December holiday. Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, and Danny Kaye in a scene from "White Christmas" Berlin would sing the song and work carefully with Kresa, until the melody Kresa wrote sounded just as Berlin heard it in his head. His songs, listed here,  have been and are still recorded by top performers. “It’s a little late—after almost twenty-seven years—to send you a fan letter about White Christmas,” wrote Irving Berlin to Bing Crosby in 1967. Then in 1989, Rosemary Clooney (1928-2002), star of the 1954 movie, White Christmas, recorded the song. The song initially performed poorly and was overshadowed by the film's first hit song: "Be Careful, It's my Heart". His verse, which set up the satirical scene he envisioned, was: Berlin rapidly saw that the soldiers took a very different sentiment from White Christmas, and he wanted to honor the spirit of his listeners. The following year (1942), many of the “plays” of the recording were on Armed Forces Radio, at a time when the world was at war. Then-host, Bing Crosby, crooned the carol, which is soulful, longing, and sad anyway, but especially so at the time. She included the first verse. It is also the name of a 1954 movie, and an album by Bing Crosby which was originally titled Merry Christmas. At 16, he became a singing waiter at the Pelham Café in Chinatown in New York City. By the end of the War it had become the biggest-selling single of all time. Tabulating record sales was low on America’s “to do” list. Crosby's rendition quickly became an American favorite, even though the original radio recording was lost and the 1942 version, which is said to have only taken 18 minutes, was worn out, according to Seattle's KUOW. He got a huge hit with and the first public performence took place at Christmas Day 1941. His first published song—written and published while he was still at the Pelham Café—led to his name change. So was White Christmas written in California? And isn't so saccharine that it makes me want to punch reindeer like some other movies I may or may not have just mentioned. It was constantly requested by troops during Bing's USO appearances overseas, which gave the singer some mixed feelings. When the recordings by other artists are added to Crosby’s, the sales of the song reach a very impressive 150 million. Berlin was worried the song’s popularity would die down, but his worries were unfounded. The gimmick was that it was a “holiday inn,” open for overnight guests only on holidays. Wonderful story, wonderfully told. "Heaven knows, I didn't come that far to make them sad. It was a simple song: just 54 words and 67 notes. For many years, no one thought about the original first verse of the song. The Armed Forces Network was flooded with requ… • “White Christmas” was picked to be included in the 1942 Bing Crosby movie Holiday Inn—both Crosby and his producer thought that the song wouldn’t have much worth outside of the movie with that verse. Casting for the film and early rehearsals for Holiday Inn began in the autumn of 1941. He wrote "White Christmas" for a musical that eventually morphed into the movie Holiday Inn and ended up winning an Academy Award for the song. The song—written in 1940-41 was introduced at a time when sheet music sales were more important than record sales. It turns out, the song has a sad back story too. He notified his publishing company that going forward all recordings and sheet music should be published without the first verse. Songs like White Christmas, written during the Tin Pan Alley era, had a prescribed format. By introducing a song to the public in this way, the companies hoped to stimulate sheet music sales.). General Waverly's Columbia Inn in fictional Pine Tree, Vermont, made it's debut a decade before, in Holiday Inn. He knew the song was good. The success of the song led eventually to a movie based on the song. The song “Snow,” originally called “Free,” was written by Irving Berlin himself. It continues to be a December perennial, recorded by many solo artists and orchestras. Song Hits Right Note So it was dropped. Izzy had a fine singing voice and a superior ear for music. In 1942, one million copies of sheet music and 2 million copies of Bing Crosby’s recording sold…it was huge, and it’s a big part of holiday music every year since. Since then, "White Christmas" has been covered by everyone from Elvis to Karen Carpenter to Lady Gaga—but its timeless message remains the same. The song was written by Berlin for the musical film Holiday Inn, released in 1942. As Berlin envisioned it, the song would be part of a musical revue. It first aired during the Kraft Music Hall radio show (yes, sponsored by the food company) on December 25, 1941. White Christmas, a song of peace and yearning for "the ones we used to know," was released to a war-torn public during the darkest days of World War II. The song was called Marie from Sunny Italy. After “Holiday Inn” I will be watching “White Christmas”, Love the old movies! The deal he made with Paramount was that White Christmas would be part of the film only if Paramount managed to sign Bing Crosby (1903-1977). It was written by Irving Berlin (the same composer behind "Cheek to Cheek," "God Bless America," and many more classics), a Russian-born immigrant who, interestingly enough, did not celebrate Christmas, as he was Jewish. But by October, “White Christmas” had hit #1 on the charts and had blown the first single out of the water. The movie "White Christmas" was released in 1954 and became the leading box-office draw of 1954. Berlin would provide a holiday-themed score that would take viewers through the year of holidays. By late December of 1941, Americans were enlisting in the military in record numbers as America mobilized for war. Not only is the best song I’ve ever written, it’s the best song anybody’s ever written.” Here’s how White Christmas became one of the most successful songs ever. When Holiday Inn was released in 1942, the hit song was as expected: Be Careful It’s My Heart, which tied into the Valentine’s Day celebration at the fictitious Holiday Inn. Berlin's three-week-old son had died on Christmas day in 1928, so every year on December 25, he and his wife visited their baby's grave, Jody Rosin, author of White Christmas: The Story of an American Song, told NPR. Though many tie the song "White Christmas" to the movie, the song was first performed by Bing Crosby 13 years earlier, on the radio show The Kraft Music Hall. His father, a cantor, had trouble finding steady work in America, so the children accepted after-school jobs. History and facts about White Christmas. The movie was supposed to reunite Crosby and Astaire for their third Irving Berlin extravaganza of song and dance. The song’s popularity and staying power proved irresistible to Hollywood executives who in 1954 released the hit feature film “White Christmas” starring Crosby and Danny Kaye. Just a few days after this—December 24, 1941—Bing Crosby introduced White Christmas, perhaps as a note of hope, on his highly successful radio broadcast, Kraft Music Hall. With 50 million copies sold, not only is Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" the best-selling Christmas song of all time, it's also the best-selling single ever, according to Guinness World Records. In 1954, it was the title track of another Bing Crosby Christmas musical, White Christmas. "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas/Just like the ones I used to know/Where the treetops glisten and children listen/To hear sleigh bells in the snow". The plot Berlin had in mind featured a vaudeville performer retiring to run a country inn. "The kind of deep secret of the song may be that it was Berlin responding in some way to his melancholy about the death of his son," Rosen said. While most other holiday songs promise a time of unmitigated joy and merriment, the melancholy undertone of White Christmas continues to appeal. Beloved Christmas carols: White Christmas, by Irving Berlin - Musicology for Everyone. Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters recorded White Christmas late in 1954, a version which has since gained popularity.The song was also the title theme for the 1954 musical White Christmas, starring Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen, which was … Then in 1989, Rosemary Clooney (1928-2002), star of the 1954 movie, White Christmas, recorded the song. Directed by Michael Curtiz. This content is imported from YouTube. It was covered by Bill Perry [1], Blue Seven, Tim McKee, The Overtones [GB] and other artists. (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. America's favorite Christmas song actually has a pretty dark back story. While many assume the song “White Christmas” was at the root of the movie, Crosby had actually first performed his version of the song 13 years earlier for a radio show. Will this year’s holiday ever equal the ones of the past? Required fields are marked *. Berlin imagined the lyrics and the tune; Crosby could evoke just the right feeling. To read the story of how the song, White Christmas, was part of the coded signal about the fall of Saigon, click here. It's also the most popular song, ever. It inspired musicals and numerous renditions by various artists, and its popularity remains unchanged to this day. Songwriters Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine wrote the classic song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" for Judy Garland's 1944 movie, Meet Me … This became the start of speculation as to where Berlin was when he wrote the song. She included the first verse. Irving Berlin’s White Christmas has notched many top positions on “best-selling” and “most–recorded” lists. In 1940, hit composer Irving Berlin, best known for “God Bless America,” was commissioned to write a Christmas song for a new movie starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. And for more about the music technology of the era, read “How a 1920s Technology Changed Music.”. The composition won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 15th Academy Awards. And Christmas as we spent it in the 50’s through 80’s, Pingback: Beloved Christmas carols: White Christmas, by Irving Berlin - Musicology for Everyone, Your email address will not be published. He taught himself the basics of piano playing, but he was never skilled at it, nor did he ever learn to write music. When Berlin came in, he announced that he wrote the song “over the weekend.” The Berlin family was in New York through the holidays that year, so he must have written or at least polished it there. On that day, Berlin appeared in his business office to meet with Helmy Kresa, the fellow who scored his music. Berlin found the assignment a challenge for two reasons: As a Jewish man who had grown up in an Orthodox household, he had no real experience with Christmas. Country Living editors select each product featured. Michael Curtiz behind the scenes during the filming of "White Christmas," a movie/musical that released January 1, 1954. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is Curtiz was born in Hungary on December 24, 1886. A successful song-and-dance team become romantically involved with a sister act and team up to save the failing Vermont inn of their former commanding general. This is a photo montage of the classic 1942 movie 'Holiday Inn', which is one of my favourite old Christmas movies. The song Berlin wrote for this scene, “Be Careful with My Heart,” was the first real hit that came out of the movie in August of 1942. Crosby was already a big star. "White Christmas" is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. White Christmas was to become the most popular Christmas song ever written. 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