Berlin wrote the song in early 1940 while sitting poolside at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix, Arizona. The original verse pokes fun at a well-off Los Angeleno who, amid orange and palm trees, longs for traditional Christmas "up north". Berlin later dropped the verse but kept the now-famous chorus.
"White Christmas" was introduced by Bing Crosby in the 1942 musical Holiday Inn. In the film, he sings it in a duet with Marjorie Reynolds. The song went on to receive the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Though Marjorie Reynolds was the actress playing Linda Mason, her voice was dubbed by Martha Mears for the movie, and in the script as originally conceived, Reynolds, not Crosby, was to sing the song.
The first public performance of the song was also by Crosby, on his top-rated NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall on Christmas Day, 1941; the recording of that performance is not believed to have survived. He recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers for Decca Records in just 18 minutes on May 29, 1942 and it was released on July 30 as part of an album of six 78-rpm songs from the film. The song initially performed poorly and was far overshadowed by the hit song of Holiday Inn, "Be Careful, It's my Heart". By the end of October, "White Christmas" topped the "Your Hit Parade" chart and remained in that position until well into the new year. (It has often been noted that the mix of melancholy — "just like the ones I used to know" — with comforting images of home — "where the treetops glisten" — resonated especially strongly with listeners during World War II and the Armed Forces Network was flooded with requests for it.) In 1942 alone, the song spent eleven weeks on top of the charts. It returned to the #1 spot again during the holiday seasons of 1945 and 1946 (on the chart dated January 4, 1947), thus becoming the only single in history with three separate runs at the top of the U.S. charts. Eventually, Crosby's "White Christmas" single sold more than 50 million copies. The Guinness Book of World Records currently lists the song as a 100-million seller (this encompassing all versions of the song, including on albums).
Crosby's single of "White Christmas" is recognized as the best-selling single in any music category and Crosby's recording has sold millions of additional copies as part of numerous albums, including his best-selling holiday collection Merry Christmas, which was first released as an LP in 1949 and has never been out-of-print since.
"ItsRanked" has Crosby's version of "White Christmas" as the number one Christmas song on its Top 40 Christmas Songs of all time ranking.
The Crosby recording is the biggest selling single of all time, as confirmed by the 2008 Guinness Book of Records.
In 1999, National Public Radio included it in the "NPR 100", in which NPR's music editors sought to compile the one hundred most important American musical works of the 20th century.
Clyde McPhatter's group, The Drifters, covered "White Christmas" late in 1954. For decades, this version was primarily heard on R & B radio stations, and got little exposure elsewhere. Beginning in the 1970s oldies stations also began playing this version in search for product within their core artists. In the early 1990s, after being heard on Home Alone (in the scene where Kevin is putting on his dad's aftershave and while doing that lip-sychs to the song), radio stations with formats as diverse as Adult Contemporary, Top 40, and Country, began playing this version. It was also heard on "The Santa Clause". The popularity of this version over the years has grown as a result. Today this version gets almost as much airplay as Bing Crosby's versions
TV special: A celebration of 'Maine Christmas Song' ; The show marking the 25-year-old classic will include prominent state musicians and raise money to feed the hungry.
Dec 07, 2012; Bob Keyes bkeyes@mainetodaycom Staff Writer
Portland Press Herald (Maine)
TV special: A celebration of...