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What Was The Story Behind the Song “White Christmas”?

We often do not know the personal struggles certain performers or celebrities go through. While their lives may seem so glamorous, there are times when it’s not all glitz and glam. Did you know that Bing Crosby had a challenging time performing for the American servicemen in France?

Bing Crosby sang “White Christmas” for the American troops in France during the Second World War. He said it was the most challenging performance of his life, knowing many of the soldiers would die in the Battle of Bulge.

The White Christmas Song

White Christmas is one of the most popular Christmas songs. It is often part of the songs played in malls and other public areas. The song was written by the famous composer and lyricist Irving Berlin, who was the person behind other popular songs like Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Cheek to Cheek, and God Bless America.

Berlin wrote the song in 1940 and was performed during the Kraft Music Hall radio show by singer Bing Crosby on Christmas Day in 1941 and was recorded two years later in 1942, premiering the song on live radio. A year later, the song became a smash hit. The song became so popular that it was always part of the Hit Parade pop chart every Christmas season for the following twenty years. (Source: History)

Crosby’s recording of White Christmas has sold over fifty million copies, making it the best-selling Christmas song of all time. It is also recognized in the Guinness World Records as the best-selling single of all time in 2012. It was also used in Berlin’s 1942 musical movie Holiday Inn starring Crosby and Fred Astaire. The movie went to win an Academy Award for the song. (Source: Guinness World Records)

The song became so popular that it was constantly requested by the US troops during the second world war, along with Bing Crosby’s performance. Crosby states in an interview that he had mixed feelings about performing the song. He felt that the song gave people a nostalgic yearning to make them sad. Crosby explained that he didn’t want to make the troops sad upon hearing the song, so he tried removing it from his performances, but the troops always requested it. (Source: Country Living)

Many singers covered the song, and below are the most popular ones.

  • Frank Sinatra in 1944
  • The Drifters in 1956
  • Elvis Presley in 1957
  • The Supremes in 1965
  • Bette Midler in 2003

(Source: Billboard)

The Story Behind Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

Unlike other holiday songs, White Christmas strikes a mood that isn’t necessarily jolly. Its melancholic nature makes it stand out from other songs like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Let It Snow. According to Jody Rosen, author of the 2002 book White Christmas: The Story of an American Song, people respond to the song because people’s feelings over the holidays are usually ambivalent. (Source: History)

The song’s writer, Irving Berlin, was a Russian-born Jewish. Berlin didn’t celebrate Christmas because of his religion. Berlin got his inspiration to write the song from a tragic event that happened to him. On December 25, 1928, Berlin’s three-week-old son, Irving Berlin, Jr., died. Berlin and his first wife commemorated Christmas Day by visiting their son’s tombstone. (Source: Smithsonian Magazine)

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