Monday, November 28, 2016

80 years ago: Bing Crosby hit #1 with “Pennies from Heaven”

Pennies from Heaven

Bing Crosby with George Stoll’s Orchestra

Writer(s): Arthur Johnston/John Burke (see lyrics here)

First Charted: November 28, 1936

Peak: 110 US, 14 HP, 11 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.74 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This was the biggest pop hit from 1936. WHC Bing sang it in the film of the same name and garnered an Academy Award nomination for the song. It also appeared in 1954’s From Here to Eternity and 1960’s Pepe TY and cropped up again in the 1994 film Corrina, Corrina.

Presumably, the lyrics are intended to “evoke a sense of optimism in difficult times, assuring the listener that when it rains, ‘There’ll be pennies from heaven for you and me.’” BF However, in the introductory verse, listeners are warned that they may have to atone for their ancestors’ failure to appreciate the better things in life. “Storms may bring us fortune, but with that fortune we must buy what we used to get for free.” BF Burke, the lyricist, went on to become good friends with Bing and wrote other classics for him such as “Moonlight Becomes You”, “I’ve Got a Pocketful of Dreams”, “What’s New?”, and “Swinging on a Star”.

In 1978, “Pennies” was revived as the theme for a BBC-TV series of the same name. The show “took the conventions of 1930s musicals and satirized them by placing the songs into a modern story.” JA That, in turn, inspired another Pennies from Heaven film in 1981 – this one starred Steve Martin and was directed by Herbert Ross. JA

Among others to have recorded the song are Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Stan Getz, Billie Holiday, Dean Martin, Guy Mitchell, Louis Prima, Frank Sinatra, Big Joe Turner, and Dinah Washington. WK

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Bing Crosby
  • BF
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 156.
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill. Page 87.
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 53.
  • WK

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 11/25/2011; last updated 10/4/2021.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

70 years ago: Nat “King” Cole charted with “The Christmas Song”

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)

Nat “King” Cole

Writer(s): Mel Tormé/Robert Wells (see lyrics here)

First Charted: November 23, 1946

Peak: 3 US, 10 HP, 16 AC, 3 RB, 45 HR, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 41.2 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Two-time Grammy winner Mel Tormé had a career spanning more than 50 years. His smooth, crooning style earned him the nickname “The Velvet Fog.” When he wrote “The Christmas Song,” however, he was at the beginning of his career. He was 19 and his friend Robert Wells was 22 when they wrote what BMI says is the most-performed Christmas song of all time. SB According to Tormé, they penned the song in the heart of summer, trying to “stay cool by thinking cool.” SB

Tormé and Nat “King” Cole were both managed by Carlos Gastel. Tormé and Wells presented the song to Cole, who was used to recording with the King Cole Trio, which he’d established in 1937. Cole served as pianist alongside guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Wesley Prince. Gastel and the executives at Capitol Records insisted Cole should record with strings and a studio orchestra – and suggested Cole stand and sing instead of taking up his usual position behind the keyboard. SS

Despite the objections of Capitol Records, Cole made two recordings – the first with the Trio in June 1946 and the second, in August, WK with a small section of strings. It was the latter which became the seasonal classic, peaking at #3, but returning every season. In 1953, Cole recorded the song again with the same arrangement, but this time with a full orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle. JA He recorded it again in 1961 with an orchestra conducted by Ralph Carmichael. SB

“The Christmas Song” ranks as the fifth most-recorded song of the rock era. SS Other artists who recorded the song include Christina Aguilera, Julie Andrews, Tony Bennett, Justin Bieber, Michael Bolton, Garth Brooks, James Brown, Chicago, Natalie Cole, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, John Denver, Celine Dion, Bob Dylan, Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Judy Garland, Whitney Houston, Etta James, Peggy Lee, Demi Lovato, Barry Manilow, Paul McCartney, The Miracles, New Kids on the Block, Kenny Rogers, Linda Ronstadt, Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, The Supremes, James Taylor, The Temptations, Luther Vandross, and Stevie Wonder. WK Cole’s version was one of the first eight inductees into the Grammy Hall of Fame.


  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Nat “King” Cole
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Mel Torme
  • JA David A. Jasen. (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 156.
  • SB
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volumes I & II). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Page 66.

Last updated 8/19/2022.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

American Music Award of Merit

American Music Award of Merit:


After a four-year layoff, the American Music Award of Merit returned in 2008. The award was initiated in 1974 as one of the original awards for the first annual American Music Awards show, which was televised on February 19, 1974. The Hollywood Reporter says the award is given to artists “who have made truly exceptional contributions to the music industry.”

The award was given each year from 1974 to 2004. Then it was given again until 2008 and then there was an eight-year gap before it was given again, this time to Sting on November 20, 2016. As of May 24, 2021, the award has not been given again.

See other lifetime achievement awards.

Sting receives the American Music Award of Merit; image from

Resources/Related Links:

First posted 11/23/2008; last updated 5/24/2021.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Chainsmokers spend 12th week at #1 with “Closer”


The Chainsmokers with Halsey

Writer(s): Andrew Taggart, Ashley Frangipane, Shaun Frank, Frederic Kennett, Isaac Slade, Joe King (see lyrics here)

Released: July 29, 2016

First Charted: August 20, 2016

Peak: 112 US, 110 RR, 8 AC, 14 A40, 14 UK, 113 CN, 19 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 1.8 UK, 15.39 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2972.6 video, 1667.0 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

“Closer” was about a couple rekindling their romance. The Chainsmokers’ Andrew Taggart and guest vocalist Halsey each sing their sides of the story before coming together by chance at the end. SF Right after the song’s release, the Chainsmokers tweeted “This song is dedicated to anyone that hooked up with their EX and right after remember all the reasons why they broke up.” SF

Taggart said the “EDM song with a retro style synthesizer” WK was inspired by Blink-182. SF Taggart crafted the beat during a studio session with Freddy Kennett (from EDM duo Louis the Child) and then wrote the words with Shaun Frank – a Canadian DJ, singer, and producer. SF Taggart said Shaun convinced him he could sing – so Taggart sang on a Chainsmokers’ song for the first time. SF

When similiarities were noted between “Closer” and the Fray’s “Over My Head (Cable Car),” the Chainsmokers reached out to the Fray’s Isaac Slade and Joe King. SF King told ABC Radio that “There was no friction or tension…So it’s all good.” SF Slade and King were added to the songwriting credits on September 2, 2016. WK

Billboard’s Matt Medved said the song “sounds like an instant classic” and boasts “an earworm chorus and evocative verses.” WK MTV’s Deepa Lakshmin called it “an upbeat dance-worthy jam that deserves a spot on your summer playlist.” WK

The Chainsmokers became the first duo or group since Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (“Thrift Shop”) more than two years earlier to top the Billboard Hot 100. WK It was the longest-running #1 song of the year and also spent more time in the top 5 (26 weeks) than any song in history SF and was only the second song – the other being LeAnn Rimes’ “How Do I Live” – to spend 32 weeks in the top ten. WK It also topped the charts in 10 other countries WK and was the first song since “Harlem Shake” by Baauer to top the Hot 100 and Hot Dance/Electronic Songs charts. SF In May 2017, it became only the second song to surpass one billion streams on Spotify. WK

Resources and Related Links:

Last updated 9/8/2021.