By THE ENTHUSIAST
Bing Is The Champion, My Friends
"White Christmas" by Irving Berlin is the best-selling song of all time. Not just the best-selling Christmas song, mind you – the best-selling song period. The Guinness Book of World Records notes that Bing Crosby’s version alone had sold more than 50,000,000 copies by 2012, with who knows how many downloads since. If you stacked 50 million 45 rpm vinyl singles one on top of the other, that pile would stand as tall as – well, it would be pretty darn tall. The Enthusiast can’t be arsed to actually measure a record and do the math, but you get the idea.
The Most Rewarding 18 Minutes In Music History
Crosby’s first recording of the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and Ken Darby Singers took all of 18 minutes. Released together with six other songs on the soundtrack album to 1942's Holiday Inn, sales of "White Christmas" were initially eclipsed by another song from the album, Berlin’s "Be Careful, It’s My Heart." A fine song to be sure, but not once has it set visions of sugarplums dancing in anyone’s head.
No Humblebragging Here
Berlin is said to have written the song at the La Quinta Inn in La Quinta, California, where he was known to regularly stay up all night writing. After penning "White Christmas," he told his secretary, “I want you to take down a song I wrote over the weekend. Not only is it the best song I ever wrote, it’s the best song anybody ever wrote."
May Your Days Be Merry And Bright
"White Christmas" served as a wistful ode to the homes they’d left behind for servicemen during World War II. Crosby was frequently asked to sing it during USO tours, but he had some reluctance. “I hesitated about doing it because invariably it caused such a nostalgic yearning among the men that it made them sad,” he recounted. “Heaven knows, I didn’t come that far to make them sad. For this reason, several times I tried to cut it out of the show, but these guys just hollered for it.”
When Saigon fell on April 30, 1975, the code used to inform the last remaining troops to scramble to the helicopters waiting on the roof of the American embassy was "White Christmas" being played on the radio.
Number fourteen in a series.
14 December 2020
The Enthusiast (email@example.com) is the pen name of critic Michael Collins. He reports back only on what’s good, never what’s bad. He is currently imbued with the holiday spirit.