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5# The Christmas Song, The first holiday standard sung by a black American

4 min read

Here’s the surprising history behind your favorite Christmas Carols!
What if “The Red-Nosed Reindeer”, Frosty and the “One Horse Open Sleigh” had nothing to do with Christmas?
Singing Christmas songs goes hand in hand with baking Christmas treats, listening our favorite Christmas tales, watching our favorite Christmas movies, and not only.
Like everything around this period of the year, everything has a story.
From songs that have been saved from being erased forever to not really knowing for sure where a song came from, here is the history of a few Christmas Carols you know and sing still today!

Enjoy our Advent Calendar 2022!

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🎄🎅🏻 THERE ARE ONLY 20 DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS 🎅🏻🎄

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Another song written in the heat of July was “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire,” or better known as “The Christmas Song.”
It was songwriter Mel Tormé who spotted the potential in the lyrics sitting on the piano of his songwriter partner Bob Wells.
It was a sweltering hot July afternoon in 1945 when Mel showed up for a writing session at the Toluca Lake house of his lyric partner Bob.
Mel let himself in and called out for Bob.
No answer.
Thus he walked over to the piano, and there, resting on the music board, was a pad of paper with four lines of a verse:

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos

When Bob finally walked in the room, dressed in tennis shorts and a T-shirt, Mel asked him about the little poem.
“It’s so damn hot today, I thought I’d writing something to cool myself off,” he replied. “All I could think of was Christmas and cold weather.”
Mel banged out a melody and the rest is history.
In his autobiography he wrote, “Improbable though it may sound, ‘The Christmas Song’ was completed about 45 minutes later.”

The “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” image was a memory from Bob’s childhood in Boston, when there’d be vendors on street corners at Christmas, serving up paper cones full of roasted chestnuts.

History was made when Nat King Cole became the first black American to record a holiday standard, using this hit tune.
And he recorded two versions: in the 1946 first pressing, Nat added a superfluous “s” to the last line, “To see if reindeers really know how to fly.” A stickler for perfection, he recorded the song again taking care to sing “reindeer”, and now the first pressing is a collectors’ item.
His version is one of the top Christmas songs of all time.

Either way Mel Tormé and Bob Wells penned over 200 more songs together, including “Born to Be Blue” and “Magic Town.”
Beyond his songwriting, Bob went on to have a successful career as an Emmy-winning television producer and writer, until he died from cancer in 1998.
Though in later life Mel was best known for his lounge-lizard character on TV’s Night Court, he continued to write, perform and record until a stroke robbed him of his voice in 1996.
He died from complications in 1999.

And their “The Christmas Song” has been covered by numerous artists from a wide variety of genres.
In December 1946, Bing Crosby performed it on a recorded radio broadcast with an introduction including Skitch Henderson on piano and, toghether with the Ken Darby Singers and the John Scott Trotter Orchestra, also made a studio recording on March 19, 1947, which went on to be released as a single later that same year.
In 1999, Christina Aguilera recorded a version and included it on her album, My Kind of Christmas (2000). The song found critical and commercial success and peaked at number 18 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, the second highest position for the song on the chart after the original.
In 2003 for his EP Let It Snow, Michael Bublé also recorded a cover of the song, and It charted at number 6 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
The song has also been covered by Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello, The Carpenters, Celine Dion, Frank Sinatra, The Jackson 5, John Legend and Justin Bieber among others.

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🎄🎅🏻 THERE ARE ONLY 20 DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS 🎅🏻🎄

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MORE STORIES
🎄 ADVENT CALENDAR 2018
🎄 ADVENT CALENDAR 2019
🎄 ADVENT CALENDAR 2020
🎄 ADVENT CALENDAR 2021

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