We all know the lyrics. We all know the melody. We know the man who sang it, way back when. Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” is perhaps the most iconic Christmas song of all time. It is also the greatest selling single recording of all time according to the Guinness Book of World Records (over 50,000,000 copies). It wasn’t the first Christmas song, but it did help to launch a whole array of notable yuletide tunes. The only Christmas single that has even come close to the impact of “White Christmas” is Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.” Strangely enough, the song wasn’t exactly written to be a hit single. It was written for a movie and initially conceived as a joke, at that.
“White Christmas” was written by the great American songwriter, Irving Berlin, as a parody lampooning the sentimental ballads of the 19th century. However, after he wrote the chorus, Berlin knew he was onto something. He finished the song with the intention that Bing Crosby sing it in his upcoming movie, “Holiday Inn.” Recorded in 1942, the song was released to a country deep in the throes of World War II and it became a rallying call to home for troops overseas who were dreaming of being with their loved ones for the holidays.
In 1943, the song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and hit No. 1 on the charts as the war was winding down. The song became such a part of Christmas that the people couldn’t get enough of it. In fact, Bing Crosby had to re-record the song in 1947 because the original 1942 recording master tape had worn out! When asked about the song, Berlin stated “not only is it the best song I ever wrote, it’s the best song anybody ever wrote.”