Saturday, October 31, 1992

50 years ago: Bing Crosby hit #1 with "White Christmas"

White Christmas

Bing Crosby with the Ken Darby Singers and the John Scott Trotter Orchestra

Writer(s): Irving Berlin (see lyrics here)


First Charted: October 3, 1942


Peak: 114 US, 110 HP, 77 CA, 11 HR, 12 GA, 3 AC, 13 RB, 5 UK, 120 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 50.0 US, 1.01 UK, 56.01 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 12.32 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Happy Halloween! And Merry Christmas? Hey, if the retail world can break into the yuletide spirit two months in advance, then so can Bing Crosby. “White Christmas” isn’t just a seasonal favorite – the DMDB ranks it as the #1 song of all time.

Much of its rating can be attributed to an estimated 56 million sales worldwide, putting it nearly 20 million ahead of its closest competition, Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997”. Bing perched atop the charts for 11 weeks in 1942. The song recharted eleven times over the next dozen years, even picking up two more weeks at #1 in 1945 and a fourteenth overall week on top in 1947. The song logged over 100 weeks on the pop charts over 20 Christmas seasons.

Irving Berlin, who was often insecure about his work, referred to “White Christmas” not just as the best one he’d ever written, but the best anyone had ever written. LW He wrote his “beautiful, longing ode to snow and the Christmas spirit” BC for the film Holiday Inn; it even won the Academy Award for Best Song. However, much of its success had to do with its addition to the Armed Forces Radio playlist. NPR The song “captures both the celebration and underlying melancholy present for many at the holiday,” BC a theme which resonated with soldiers yearning for better times when they were back home. LW

The song also took on a life beyond Bing’s recording. The five million in sales for the sheet music made it one of the ten best-selling sheet music songs of the first half of the century. PM With over 500 versions in dozens of languages, “White Christmas” has also become the most recorded Christmas song. BC At the end of 1998, ASCAP named it the most-performed holiday song of the century. The song is also notable for helping to usher in the era in which performers outdistanced the songwriters in popularity. “Tin Pan Alley had passed into history.” NPR


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Bing Crosby
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Irving Berlin
  • BC Blogcritics.org (2005) ASCAP’s 25 Most-Performed Holiday Songs for 2000-05. By Eric Olsen.
  • JA David A. Jasen. (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 213.
  • LW Alan Lewens (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 84.
  • NPR National Public Radio web site (1999). “The Most Important American Musical Works of the 20th Century
  • PM Joel Whitburn (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 634.
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill.
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc.

First posted 10/31/2011; last updated 4/22/2021.

1 comment:

  1. This comment was posted on the "Links" page, but is more fitting here so I reposted it here.

    eu4 console commandsDecember 22, 2017 at 6:35 AM

    When he wrote White Christmas, Irving Berlin stated -"Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I've ever written — heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written!" Guess he was right--sales-wise anyway!

    ReplyDelete