Classic Christmas: Bing Crosby's White Christmas
Over the holidays, we're looking back at some classic Christmas albums taking some track by track and just digging on others.
Bing Crobsy was the first crossover pop star. He made movies, music, appeared in both radio and television programs and did all of it successfully and, more importantly, really well. Crosby was the Will Smith of the '40s and '50s minus the special effects and hip hop.
Despite all his success, he could have quit after he recorded Irving Berlin's "White Christmas." In fact, he and about 100 of his friends could have retired off of the success of that song, which is, to date, the best selling single of all time. Wrap your head around that for a second. It's not Madonna or Michael Jackson or the Beatles or Lady Gaga or Rhianna...it's Bing freaking Crosby. The single "White Christmas" has sold more than 50 million copies since its release in 1941. But the album of the same name has more to offer than just the popular single.
First, a note about the cover and the name. This original album was actually more than one release. Decca compiled holiday songs from Crosby recorded from 1941 to 1951 and released them on three separate 78s over ten years all entitled Merry Christmas, the art used in this post. The batch of tunes was condensed and re-released in 1995 under the title White Christmas.
It was fairly common for these kinds of things to happen before the music industry became the well oiled machine it is today.
Whatever the case, this is one of those classic Christmas records that everyone has or should if they love holiday music. Besides "White Christmas" (which also happens to be the name of Croby's timeless musical -- he milked it), covers carols like "Silent Night" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" as well as wartime pop songs he helped to make famous like "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "Sliver Bells."
White Christmas also contains a few both interesting and notable choices that fall outside the traditional music we all are used to hearing covered. Crosby delivers a lovely version of the traditional hymn "Faith of Our Fathers" and a jaunty rendition of the Irish song "Christmas in Killarney," which is almost never heard anymore.
But perhaps the one song you will recognize instantly is "Mele Kalikimaka," the Hawaiian Christmas song he recorded with the Andrews Sisters and is common to lots of holiday films and cartoons. It is of particular note because it was recorded in a rather tumultuous time for the island state, after Pearl Harbor but before it was granted statehood.
This is a rare example of a record with popularity spanning seven decades, owed in great part to the title song, but it also happens to be worthy of the accolades.
Check out previous classic Christmas album recaps:
Charles Brown - Merry Christmas Baby
Johnny Mathis - Merry Christmas
Andy Williams - The Andy Williams Christmas Album
Phil Spector - A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records
Frank Sinatra - A Jolly Christmas fro Frank Sinatra
The Carpenters - Christmas Portrait
Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas
George Winston - December
Various Artists - A Very Special Christmas
Mel Torme - Christmas Songs