Friday, December 30, 1994

Today in Music (1944): “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” charted

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Judy Garland

Writer(s): Hugh Martin (music), Ralph Blane (lyrics) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: December 30, 1944

Peak: 27 PM, 2 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 5.6 video, 160.0 streaming


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About the Song:

The 1944 MGM musical Meet Me in St. Louis is set in 1903 leading up to the World’s Fair in St. Louis the following year. The movie featured some songs from the period as well as new material by composer Hugh Martin and lyricist Ralph Blane. Among the songs was “The Trolley Song,” which nominated for an Oscar for Best Song, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” a now holiday classic named to the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 movie songs.

In the film, Judy Garland’s family is moving to New York, against the wishes of everyone except the father. Her sister is worried Santa won’t find her in their new home. Garland sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to her. She refused to perform the song as it was originally written because it was “too somber, too full of pain” TY1 with original lyrics “Have yourself a merry little Christmas / It will be your last / Next year we will be living in the past.” TY1 The director Vincente Minnelli and her co-star Tom Drake agreed and the lines were changed to “Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight.” WK

The suggestion that things would be better the next year resonated with United States troops during World War II. When she performed the song at the Hollywood Canteen, it brought many soldiers to tears. WK

Although Blane and Martin were credited with the songs in Meet Me in St. Louis, Martin has claimed that he wrote the music and lyrics to most of the songs. He said he allowed Blane credit because of “my naïve and atrocious lack of business acumen.” WK

Despite becoming such a Christmas favorite, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” went nearly fifty years from Garland initially charting with the song in 1944 before it charted again. Vince Gill hit #52 on the country chart with it in 1993. Others to chart with it include Kenny G (1994, #26 AC), Martina McBride (1999, #53 CW), James Taylor (2001, #4 AC), Ruben Studdard & Tamyra Gray (2003, #25 AC), Clay Aiken (2005, #32 AC), Joe Nichols (2005, #57 CW), LeAnn Rimes (2005, #60 CW), Sarah McLachlan (2006, #6 AC), Barry Manilow (2007, #11 AC), Colbie Caillat (2009, #12 AC), David Archuleta (2009, #22 AC), Katharine McPhee (2010, #16 AC), Michael Bublé (2011, #47 BB, 99 UK, 9 AU), Rod Stewart (2012, #28 AC, 51 UK), Little Big Town (2012, #49 CW), Susan Boyle (2013, #17 AC), Sam Smith (2014, #90 BB, 50 RR, 6 AC), Dan + Shay (2014, #17 AC), Train (2015, #5 AC), Josh Groban (2016, #1 AC), John Legend with Esperanza Spalding (2018, #1 AC), and the Rua (2018, #25 AC).


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First posted 12/21/2023.

Friday, December 16, 1994

50 years ago: Bing Crosby “Don’t Fence Me In” hit #1

Don’t Fence Me In

Bing Crosby with the Andrews Sisters

Writer(s): Cole Porter, Robert Fletcher (see lyrics here)

First Charted: November 25, 1944

Peak: 18 US, 14 GA, 18 HP, 9 RB, 112 AU (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This song about “a footloose and fancy-free kind of person who refuses to settle down” TY1 was considered uncharacteristic for songwriter Cole Porter. Not only does it lack the “sophistication of most of his lyrics” TY1 but it does not “seem especially clever or debonair.” TY1 Porter even called it his least favorite of his compositions. WK

Then again, the song wasn’t entirely his. Robert Fletcher, a Montana engineer with the Department of Highways, wrote a poem, which would seem to be “Open Range” from his 1934 book Coral Dust, and Porter bought the rights for $250. WK Porter used some of the phrases to fashion “Don’t Fence Me In”. TY1

The song was written in 1934 for the never-released film Adios Argentina. The song resurfaced when Roy Rogers and the Andrews Sisters performed it in the film Hollywood Canteen. TY1 Rogers performed the song again in the 1945 film Don’t Fence Me In and it was also featured in 1946’s Night and Day, a tribute to Cole Porter’s life and his music. TY1 Kate Smith introduced the song to many new listeners on her October 8, 1944, radio broadcast. WK

Meanwhile, Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters recorded a version of the song in a mere thirty minutes on July 25, 1944. WK They released the song as a single. All told, the pairing made for 23 chart appearances, hitting #2 on five occasions. This was the bigger of their two songs which hit #1. The other, “A Hot Time in the Town of Berlin”, had charted only a couple of months earlier and topped the charts for six weeks. PM “Fence” and 1943’s “Pistol Packin’ Mama” were also million sellers. PM


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First posted 11/25/2011; last updated 3/31/2023.

Saturday, December 3, 1994

Pearl Jam “Better Man” charted

Better Man

Pearl Jam

Writer(s): Eddie Vedder (see lyrics here)

Released: December 6, 1994 (album cut)

First Charted: December 3, 1994

Peak: 13 BA, 24 RR, 18 AR, 2 MR, 9 CN, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 36.6 video, 159.90 streaming


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About the Song:

Eddie Vedder, the frontman for Pearl Jam, wrote “Better Man” when he was a teenager. Her performed the song with Bad Radio, a funk group in the vein of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. PF The earliest version was based on the fast tempo “Save It for Later” by the English Beat. FO It changed significantly between then and the time it surfaced as a Pearl Jam ballad.

Pearl Jam didn’t take a stab at recording it until sessions for sophomore album Vs.. Producer Brendan O’Brien declared the song a hit. Vedder wasn’t enthusiastic about that prospect because it was such a personal song and he wanted to give the song away. The plan was for Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders to sing the song for a Greenpeace charity record. His bandmates were relieved when she didn’t show up for a recording session because they thought it should be a Pearl Jam song. SF They took another shot at recording it during sessions for their third album, Vitalogy. FO

Lyrically, the song tells a story about an abusive relationship. She waits for him to get home, practicing how she’ll break up with him. However, she loses the courage when it comes time to confront him in person. She convinces herself she’s really in love with him and can’t find anyone better. During a performance on April 3, 1994, he said, “it’s dedicated to the bastard that married my momma.” It was a reference to Peter Mueller, his stepfather who he’d been led to believe was his biological father. WK

While the song wasn’t released as a single and the band weren’t making videos at the time, “Better Man” still triumphed at radio, landing at #1 for eight weeks at album rock and reaching the top 20 of the Billboard pop airplay chart. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) named it one of the most-performed songs of 1995. WK


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First posted 12/15/2023.

Thursday, December 1, 1994

Today in Music (1944): Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra premiered

Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 127

Béla Bartók (composer)

Composed: 1943-1945

First Performed: December 1, 1944

Peak: --

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: classical > concerto


  1. I. Introduzione
  2. II. Giuoco delle coppie
  3. III. Elegia
  4. IV. Intermezzo interrotto
  5. V. Finale

Average Duration: 37:40


4.670 out of 5.00 (average of 7 ratings)


(Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

In 1943, Béla Bartók had been in the United States less than three years. He faced financial hardship, a leukemia diagnosis, and a feeling of “artistic isolation and separation from the source of his inspiration, Hungary, and its wealth of folk music.” MS His life had seemingly “come to a standstill when he received a commission for a large orchestral work from Serge Koussevitzky, music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The funds for the commission came, unbeknownst to Bartók, from his close friends and fellow Hungarian émigrés Joseph Szigeti and Fritz Reiner.” MS

Bartók worked on the concerto from August to October 1943. MS It debuted at the Boston Symphony Hall on December 1, 1944 with Serge Koussevitzky conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra. WK Bartók couldn’t attend, but heard a later performance in New York City. MS

This is one of Bartók’s “best-known, most popular and most accessible works.” WK It contrasts with “the conventional concerto form, which features a solo instrument with orchestral accompaniment. Bartók said that he called the piece a concerto rather than a symphony because of the way each section of instruments is treated in a soloistic and virtuosic way.” WK

The concerto is comprised of five movements, “arranged in what is called an ‘arch’ form, in which the first and fifth movements are related, as are the second and fourth, with the third movement functioning as the keystone of the arch. The Concerto’s opening bars present a theme of rising fourths in cellos and basses, answered by tremolando strings and fluttering flutes in Bartók’s characteristic ‘night music’ style. Trumpets, pianissimo, chant a pungent, short-phrased chorale on which the theme of the main Allegro vivace is based. A lyrical second theme is introduced by the oboe, but the mood remains dark as the material is developed. Only when brass erupt in a modal fugato section is there the suggestion that things may lighten. Bartók noted that the progress of the concerto was toward light from initial darkness, and that the thematic material of the fugato will return in modified form as the basis of the joyous moto perpetuo finale.” MS

“The second movement is titled Games of Couples, and presents woodwinds in successive pairs, with close intervallic relationships derived from Dalmatian folk music. The syncopated rhythm that accompanies these games – performed by side drum without snares – carries over into the middle section, a soft chorale for brass. Bartók described the keystone third movement, Elegia, as a ‘ugubrious death-song,’ in which unsettled "night music" effects alternate with intense, prayerful supplications (again related to the chorale-like material that pervades the first half of the work).” MS

“The subsequent Interrupted Intermezzo presents the first real carefree moments of the work, with its satiric treatment of the march theme from Shostakovich’s ‘Leningrad’ Symphony, which Bartók heard in a radio broadcast. Bartók scholar Elliott Antokoletz notes that the movement’s warm, cantabile melody for violas quotes a popular song by Zsigmond Vincze, ‘You are Lovely, You are Beautiful, Hungary,’ bringing an unmistakable note of homesickness to the music.” MS

“The finale opens with a leaping call to order for all four horns unison, followed by a wild moto perpetuo dance, in which the succeeding episodes hardly stop for breath. Bartók provided two endings, the first rather abrupt, the second more traditionally climactic, and making use of the upward-moving minor third motif that served as an intervallic motto for Bartók in many works. The alternate ending is the one that is usually played.” MS

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Last updated 11/26/2023.