Wednesday, November 23, 2016

On This Day in Music (1946): 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 charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 41.2 video, 390.64 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.


Last updated 9/5/2023.

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