Seventy years ago today marked the first week in an unprecedented seventy-seven day run at the top of the charts for the biggest-selling song of the 20th Century: Bing Crosby’s rendition of Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas.’ Originally released as part of the soundtrack to the 1942 film, Holiday Inn, ‘White Christmas’ initially proved unpopular with audiences; overshadowed by other songs such as ‘Be Careful, It’s My Heart’ which was a much bigger hit at the time of the film’s release. However, with the growing realization that the holiday season of 1942 would – for many – be the first spent separated from loved ones, recognition and demand for the song grew. Finally, on October 24, ‘White Christmas’ took over the #1 spot, dislodging Glenn Miller’s ‘Kalamazoo’ and holding off other challenges from the likes of Kay Kyser, Spike Jones, and Charlie Spivak. The ‘White Christmas’ season would not come to an end until well after the New Year and not before it had cemented its place forever in the popular American songbook. Thereafter, Berlin’s song and Crosby’s signature hit would see almost annual re-release during the holiday season, becoming the only song in history to enjoy three separate runs at the top of the U.S. charts (1942, 1945, 1946).
Encompassing re-releases, its inclusion on albums and Greatest Hits packages, Bing Crosby’s version of ‘White Christmas’ has – to date – sold in excess of 100 million copies. However, most audiences today are more familiar not with 1942 recording of the song, but with the 1947 re-recording made necessary after the song’s original master copy was nearly worn out through overuse.
Click below to hear Bing Crosby’s original 1942 version of ‘White Christmas’
Posted by Collin Makamson, Red Ball Express Coordinator at The National WWII Museum