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Dreaming of a “White Christmas?”

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By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS – While the chances of experiencing a “White Christmas” in East Texas are relatively remote this year, the chance to dazzle friends and acquaintances with little known facts about the song “White Christmas” will keep you at the adult’s table and relegate poor old Uncle John to the kiddie table.

According to an article published on the website “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader,” the song was written by Irving Berlin and was originally composed for a Broadway musical that never got off the ground.

Fortunately, it was rescued by Hollywood producers who used it in the film, “Holiday Inn,” which starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.

“Berlin,” the website stated, “wrote the song from the point of view of a New Yorker (like himself) stuck in warm California for Christmas. He copyrighted ‘White Christmas’ in 1940 and won the Oscar for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. Berlin presented the Oscar to himself, an Academy Awards first.”

The song spent 11 weeks at the top of the charts in 1942 and was Crosby’s 29th number one hit. As a matter of perspective, the Beatles only reached that musical pinnacle 20 times, the website indicated.

According to the article, the song was an instant classic and “… remained so popular with radio listeners and record buyers that it re-entered the pop charts over and over again for decades. It was a hit single in every year, from 1942 to 1962 (except in 1952 for some reason), routinely reaching the top 10 and even making it back to number one on two separate occasions.”

“White Christmas” has sold over 50 million copies and was the bestselling single of all time. The Yuletide favorite was supplanted at the top by Elton John’s tribute song to Princess Dianna, “Candle in the Wind 1997.”

While Irving Berlin had some juice in musical circles, when it came to going against “The King,” he was no match.

When Elvis Presley covered the song in 1957 for his Christmas album, according to Charles Wolfe in his liner notes album, “Elvis Presley: If Every Day was Like Christmas,” Berlin hated it.

“In fact,” Wolfe stated, “Berlin tried to have the song, and the entire album, banned from radio airplay. After hearing Presley’s version of his song, which Berlin saw as a ‘profane parody of his cherished yuletide standard’, he ordered his staff in New York to telephone radio stations across the United States, demanding the song be discontinued from radio play. Most disc Jockeys ignored him.”

One last little tidbit about the song. According to the article, “In April 1975, the American military played ‘White Christmas’ over Armed Forces Radio as a covert signal instructing soldiers in Vietnam to evacuate Saigon.”

 Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.