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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Jukebox - White Christmas by Bing Crosby

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas..., seriously, I am.

As I write today's entry, it is now the 18th of December. There's a light dusting of snow on the ground right now, but hardly anything that I would constitute as being a white Christmas.

Growing up in Canada, I've always been accustomed to having snow-filled Christmases. Some might even say that I've been spoiled by it, as I can't remember the last time that we DIDN'T have snow on Christmas.

Though, I do realize that when the 25th of December rolls around, that not every nation in the world welcomes snow on Christmas. Almost every nation south of the equator will likely never see a white Christmas, due to the fact that it's summer during the month of December.

And even so, depending on the nation, did you know that there are various conditions that have to be met before a Christmas is declared a white one?

For instance, take Canada, my country of birth. In order for a Christmas to be called a white Christmas, there has to be a snowfall of at least two centimeters (less than an inch) on the ground on Christmas Day (or so an article I read posted on CBC News stated).

In the United States, that amount is slightly more, with there having to be at least one inch of snow on the ground on Christmas morning for it to be called a white Christmas. That info courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In Britain, there doesn't even have to be snow on the long as there is snow falling on Christmas Day, then it can be called a white Christmas, or so the British Met Office's official definition states.

You know, just to do a little bit of research into the probability of having a white Christmas, I took the liberty of researching some cities all over the world to determine what the probability is for one. Judging by the list that I have comprised, there's about a four in five chance of my location having a white Christmas. But I think it's interesting to compare and contrast, and that's exactly what I have done.

This information comes from a couple of sources. The first is the Meteorological Service of Canada. The second is the National Climactic Data Center of the United States.

So, I chose thirty cities at random, and here are the results.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 11.00%
Calgary, Alberta, Canada 59.00%
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 88.00%
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada 98.00%
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada 98.00%
Toronto, Ontario, Canada 37.00%
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 83.00%
Montreal, Quebec, Canada 80.00%
Quebec City, Quebec, Canada 99.00%
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada 59.00%
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada 65.00%
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada 100.00%
Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.A. 90.00%
Fairbanks, Alaska, U.S.A. 100.00%
Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A. 1.00%
Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. 1.00%
Denver, Colorado, U.S.A. 50.00%
Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A. 13.00%
Washington, D.C., U.S.A. 5.00%
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A. 0.00%
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. 40.00%
Topeka, Kansas, U.S.A. 23.00%
Portland, Maine, U.S.A. 83.00%
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. 23.00%
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. 50.00%
Duluth, Minnesota, U.S.A. 97.00%
Reno, Nevada, U.S.A. 20.00%
New York City, New York, U.S.A. 22.00%
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. 10.00%
Dallas, Texas, U.S.A. 7.00%

Quite an interesting list to observe, isn't it?

And, look! All this talk about white Christmases leads to today's blog subject!

ARTIST: Bing Crosby
SONG: White Christmas
ALBUM: Merry Christmas
DATE RELEASED: July 30, 1942

Ah yes...the Christmas favourite for which inspired this posting. Bing Crosby's White Christmas. And, I know the release date seems rather...odd for a Christmas song, but I'll get to that one discrepancy farther down.

This song just also happens to be the kickoff to the special theme week of blog posts that I like to refer to as the 7 Days Of Box Office Christmas, where every subject is linked to a feature film in some form.

In this case, White Christmas was released as part of the soundtrack to the 1942 feature film musical, Holiday Inn, and its songwriter was Irving Berlin, a man who had penned some of the biggest hits of the late 1920s and 1930s. Although some of the stories behind the song's creation have varied over the years, one of the more common stories that has been told dates back to 1940. The story went that he stayed up all night in the city of Banning, California (a city that rarely, if ever, celebrated a white Christmas), and that the idea just came to him. It's also said that when he thought of the lyrics, he told his secretary “Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I've ever written – heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written!”

Although most reports state that the song was written sometime during 1940, the first public performance of the song was on December 25, 1941. Bing Crosby sang the song on his NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall. However, it is believed that the original recording of the song is lost. However, in May 1942, Crosby recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers for Decca Records. Even more impressive? It took less than twenty minutes for the song to be recorded beginning to end.

The song became a part of the Holiday Inn soundtrack album, which would be released that summer. Although, it should be noted that at first, Crosby didn't seem to be all that enthused over the song 'White Christmas'. He had told Irving Berlin that he didn't see any problems with the recording of the song, but at the same time, didn't think it would become more than a novelty hit.

Boy was HE wrong!

But keep in mind that the Holiday Inn album was released during the summer of 1942. In summer, the furthest thing from our minds is the Christmas season, and I certainly don't think that a song like 'White Christmas' would be an appropriate song to play at a volleyball beach party, or selling lemonade on a corner. I'd think that people would look at you if you were the weirdest person in the world.

Hmmm...maybe I should try that one summer for the hell of it.

Anyway, because of the timing of the album's release, White Christmas performed poorly. In fact, another song off the same album, “Be Careful, It's My Heart”, seemed to overshadow “White Christmas” in popularity at first. It wasn't until 'White Christmas' was released as an official single that fall that its popularity began to kick off.

According to early records of the chart history of 1942, 'White Christmas' hit the top spot on, of all holidays, Halloween! And the song remained at the top of the charts straight through to January 1943, a total of eleven weeks at #1 during the song's first run, a record that stood for many years until Boyz II Men shattered that record in 1992 with a 13-week run with “End Of The Road”.

But that wasn't the ONLY time that the single topped the charts.

The single was re-released by Decca, and the song topped the charts twice more...once in 1945, and again in 1946. This made the single the only one to reach the top spot on three separate occasions. The song even won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1942.

The song is still heard today, and is considered to be one of the perennial Christmas classics ever recorded. Although the Bing Crosby version that is commonly heard today is not the original 1942 recording. In March of 1947, Crosby re-recorded the single, as the original master tape had been played so much, it was starting to wear out!

And here's the kicker! Although “White Christmas” is arguably considered to be Bing Crosby's signature song, Crosby himself was dismissive of the song's success right up to the day he died in 1977. He was quoted as saying that “a jackdaw with a cleft palate could have sung it successfully.”


If only Bing knew just how much success his song would end up having after his death, he might have changed his tune. Or, perhaps not.

The fact remains that “White Christmas” holds the record of having the best-selling single in the world. Ever. The Guinness Book Of World Records states that between 1942 and 2011, the single “White Christmas” has sold upwards of over fifty MILLION copies worldwide! It was ranked at the top spot of 'ItsRanked' top 40 Christmas songs of all time. Even more impressive is the song's inclusion on the list of the RIAA's Top 100 Songs of The Century list. It held the number two position on that list, just underneath Judy Garland's “Over The Rainbow” from the 1939 movie “The Wizard Of Oz”. The song also made a reappearance in the 1954 film musical of the same name, also starring Bing Crosby.

Another record the song can boast? It's considered to be the Christmas song with the most cover versions, having over 500 different interpretations of the classic hit. Clearly, Bing Crosby's version is the best known, but other versions that have been recorded over the past seventy years include ones recorded by The Drifters (1954), Elvis Presley (1957), Doris Day (1964), Michael Bolton (1992), Martina McBride (1998), Mannhein Steamroller (2001), Michael Bublé (2003), and Taylor Swift (2007).

So you can see how much power that song had in the world of Christmas music, as well as the world of pop music as we know it. Not bad for a song that the original artist didn't really believe in at first.

So, to end off this note, I just want to say this.

May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.

Well, unless you live in Hawaii, that is...

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