For this Saturday of the Christmas month, I am again focusing on songs of the season as available on YouTube. The previous two Saturdays I shared entertaining, catchy songs with unique twists. Christmas hymns with lyrics conveying the serious religious message of Christ’s birth will always be my favorites, hence my highlighting them in a plethora of blog posts over the years. Links to past posts, which always include history facts, lyrics, and YouTube videos can be found in the Pemberley Library under the “Holiday Blogs –» Christmas Carols” section.
Yet despite my general preference, I honestly adore just about every Christmas related song that has ever been written. Today I am again staying within the 20th century and highlighting songs with themes of winter wonderlands and sleigh bells, yet rather than peppy tunes and varied musical genres, I am highlighting the plethora of celebrated crooners who inundated the airwaves, TV, and vinyl market with Christmas songs and albums galore.
The term CROONER is a style of singer that developed in the late 1920s but gained prominence during the 1930s when improvements in microphone technology picked up the quieter vocal sounds and lower range frequencies of primarily male singers. Derived from the verb to croon, meaning “to speak or sing softly,” the smooth, intimate manner of singing was wildly attractive to women, especially teenage girls known as “bobby soxers” during the big band era. For this reason, the majority of crooners were, and still are, male. However, this is not exclusive, as female singers with smoky, sultry voices are sometimes categorized as crooners, if not as commonly as terms like torchsinger and songstress. Classic examples include Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, Rosemary Clooney, and Judy Garland. That said, men have always dominated the crooner style, and still do to this day with contemporary artists like Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Bublé carrying the torch.
When it comes to dreamy, warm, and sentimental Christmas songs, the crooner style works beautifully. In fact, there are SO many to chose from that limiting to a handful is next to impossible! I’ve narrowed down to my personal favorites, but mean no disrespect to the wealth of incredible, velvety voices of the 20th century who brought us classic Christmas songs which will live on eternally.
Warning: Most of these videos are old clips from television specials so the sound and picture quality isn’t always the best.
When highlighting the great crooners of yore, especially regarding Christmas songs, it is literally impossible not to begin with Bing Crosby singing White Christmas. Over the decades since Irving Berlin wrote the song in 1942 for the movie Holiday Inn, Crosby sang White Christmas multiple times, many of those recordings available on YouTube. And of course dozens upon dozens of artists have recorded their own versions of the classic song, most of them truly outstanding. Nevertheless, few would argue Bing Crosby was the master and forever will be. This clip is from Holiday Inn, where the whole world first heard this fabulous, timeless classic carol. Crosby is with actress Margaret Reynolds, who joins in toward the end in a duet. However, as a bit of movie trivia, the actress’s voice was dubbed by singer Martha Mears.
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You) is a classic Christmas song written by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells in 1944. It was first recorded by The King Cole Trio in 1946. In 1961, the song was recorded again in stereophonic version, audio and video, with a full orchestra conducted by Ralph Carmichael using the same arrangement, for Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song album.
I in no way intend to incite a discussion of “who sang it better” by sharing The Christmas Song by Johnny Mathis immediately after Nat King Cole. Both men are indescribable, in my opinion, and while I could have easily chosen a different song for either of them, I simply love this song so much! So here is Johnny Mathis performing The Christmas Song on The Johnny Carson Show in 1974.
This classic by Andy Williams is a medley of two beloved Christmas songs. The first is Happy Holiday, written by Irving Berlin for Holiday Inn as a New Year’s Eve song, which was sung by Bing Crosby in the 1942 movie. It’s The Holiday Season was written by American songwriter Kay Thompson in 1945, and was sung by her at The Hollywood Bowl on December 22, 1945. Andy Williams, a mentor and romantic partner of Thompson for a time, combined the two into a medley, which appeared in 1963 on his first of eight total Christmas albums. This performance is from his self-titled show, airing in December 1962.
The incomparable Judy Garland introduced the classic Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas to the world in the 1944 musical Meet Me In St. Louis. The song was written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane specifically for the movie and for Garland. Released as a single, the song was a massive hit for World War II troops stationed outside of the USA and hit #27 on the Billboard Charts. Like most classic holiday songs, it has been recorded by other artists, including a successful version by Frank Sinatra in 1957, but to this day the best loved rendition is the original sung by the divine Judy Garland.
Written by the lyricist Kim Gannon and composer Walter Kent, I’ll Be Home For Christmas was first recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943. Originally written to honor soldiers overseas who longed to be home at Christmas time, the song has been recorded and performed by countless artists, long ago becoming a holiday standard. Dean Martin included I’ll Be Home For Christmas on his 1966 Christmas album and performed the song live on the December 21, 1967 Christmas edition of his TV show.
I know I have barely scratched the surface.
YouTube is replete with audio recordings, literally thousands of Christmas singles
and whole albums available to listen to freely.
Live performances are difficult to find, unfortunately, but even though rare, these seven selections are a fraction.
Now tell me your favorite old fashioned crooners and the versions you love the best.