- The Christmas Song
"The Christmas Song" Christmas song by Mel Tormé Released 1944 Writer Mel Tormé,
"The Christmas Song" (commonly subtitled "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" or, as it was originally subtitled, "Merry Christmas to You") is a classic Christmas song written in 1944 by musician, composer, and vocalist Mel Tormé (nicknamed in the music industry as "The Velvet Fog") and Bob Wells. According to Tormé, the song was written during a blistering hot summer. In an effort to “stay cool by thinking cool,” the most-performed (according to BMI) Christmas song was born.
“I saw a spiral pad on his piano with four lines written in pencil,” Tormé recalled. “They started, ‘Chestnuts roasting ... , Jack Frost nipping ... , Yuletide carols …, Folks dressed up like Eskimos.’ Bob (Wells, co-writer) didn’t think he was writing a song lyric. He said he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off. Forty minutes later that song was written. I wrote all the music and some of the lyrics.”
The Nat King Cole Trio first recorded the song early in 1946. At Cole’s behest — and over the objections of his label, Capitol Records — a second recording was made the same year utilizing a small string section, this version becoming a massive hit on both the pop and R&B charts. Cole again recorded the song in 1953, using the same arrangement with a full orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, and once more in 1961, in a stereophonic version with orchestra conducted by Ralph Carmichael. Nat King Cole's 1961 version is generally regarded as definitive, and in 2004 was the most loved seasonal song with women aged 30–49, while Cole’s original 1946 recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1974. Mel Tormé recorded the song himself in 1954, and again in 1961, 1966 and 1992.
The Nat King Cole recordings
First recording: Recorded at WMCA Radio Studios, New York City, June 14, 1946. Label credit: The King Cole Trio (Nat King Cole, vocal-pianist; Oscar Moore, guitarist; Johnny Miller, bassist). Not issued until 1989, when it was (accidentally) included on the various-artists compilation Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits (1935–1954) Rhino R1 70637(LP) / R2 70637(CD).
Second recording: Recorded at WMCA Radio Studios, New York City, August 19, 1946. First record issue. Label credit: The King Cole Trio with String Choir (Nat King Cole, vocal-pianist, Oscar Moore, guitarist; Johnny Miller, bassist; Charlie Grean, conductor of 4 string players, a harpist and a drummer) Lacquer disc master #981. Issued November 1946 as Capitol 311(78rpm). This is featured on a CD called The Holiday Album, which has 1940s Christmas songs recorded by Cole and Bing Crosby. In 2005 Capitol restored and re-released it for the 25 bit re-mastered Cole album "The Christmas Song," which also contains tracks from his 1960 and 1963 holiday albums.
Third recording: Recorded at Capitol Studios, Hollywood, August 24, 1952. This was the song’s first magnetic tape recording. Label credit: The King Cole Trio with String Choir (Actual artists: Nat King Cole, vocal; Nelson Riddle, orchestra conductor) Master #11726, take 11. Issued November 1953 as the “new” Capitol 90036(78rpm) / F90036(45rpm) (Capitol first issued 90036 in 1950 with the second recording). Correct label credit issued on October 18, 1954 as Capitol 2955(78rpm) / F2955(45rpm). Label credit: Nat “King” Cole with Orchestra Conducted by Nelson Riddle. This recording is available on the 1990 CD Cole, Christmas and Kids, as well as the various-artists compilation Casey Kasem Presents All Time Christmas Favorites. It was also included, along with both 1946 recordings, on the 1991 Mosaic Records box set The Complete Capitol Recordings of the Nat King Cole Trio.
Fourth recording: Recorded at Capitol Studios, New York City, March 30, 1961. This rendition, the first recorded in stereo, is widely played on radio stations during the Christmas season, and is probably the most famous version of this song. Label credit: Nat King Cole (Nat King Cole, vocal; Charles Grean & Pete Rugolo, orchestration; Ralph Carmichael, orchestra conductor). The instrumental arrangement is nearly identical with the 1953 version, but the vocals are much deeper and more focused. Originally done for The Nat King Cole Story (a 1961 LP devoted to stereo re-recordings of Cole’s earlier hits), this recording was later appended to a reissue of Cole’s 1960 holiday album The Magic of Christmas. Retitled The Christmas Song, the album was issued in 1963 as Capitol W-1967(mono) / SW-1967(stereo) and today is in print on compact disc. This recording of “The Christmas Song” is also available on numerous compilation albums. Some are Capitol pop standards Christmas compilations while others are broader-based. It’s available on WCBS-FM’s Ultimate Christmas Album Volume 3, for example.
There were several covers of Nat Cole's original record in the 1940s. The first of these was said to be by Dick Haymes on the Decca label, but his was released first--not recorded first. The first cover of "The Christmas Song" was performed by pop tenor and bandleader Eddy Howard on Majestic. Howard was a big Cole fan, and also covered Nat's versions of "I Want to Thank Your Folks" and "I Love You for Sentimental Reasons," among others.
Selective list of notable recordings
"The Christmas Song" has been covered by numerous artists from a wide variety of genres, including:
- Trace Adkins
- Christina Aguilera
- Clay Aiken
- Herb Alpert
- Thomas Anders
- India.Arie and Stevie Wonder (winner of the Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals in 2003)
- Tony Bennett
- Polly Bergen (who sang the song on the December 14, 1957 airing of her NBC variety show, The Polly Bergen Show)
- Justin Bieber & Usher (#58 in US, #59 in Canada)
- Michael Bolton
- Toni Braxton
- Garth Brooks
- James Brown
- Les Brown and his Orchestra (with Doris Day on lead vocal)
- Michael Bublé (his version, bearing close similarities to Celine Dion's recording of the song, reached #6 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in December 2003.)
- Kenny Burrell
- The Canadian Brass (from their 1985 Christmas album A Canadian Brass Christmas)
- The Carpenters (from their 1978 Christmas album Christmas Portrait)
- Celtic Woman
- Christmas Who? (a SpongeBob Christmas special. SpongeBob and Patrick in a Christmas song sing as a lyric "...chestnuts roasting and burns in the third degree" before the ending of their song.)
- Charlotte Church
- Rosemary Clooney
- Natalie Cole
- Bing Crosby
- Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass (1970)
- Doris Day (from her 1964 Christmas album The Doris Day Christmas Album)
- Gavin DeGraw
- Celine Dion
- Vanessa Doofenshmirtz (voiced by Olivia Olson on the album Phineas and Ferb Holiday Favorites)
- Bob Dylan
- Gloria Estefan
- Connie Francis
- Aretha Franklin
- Judy Garland, who sang the song in a duet with its composer, Mel Torme, on a Christmas-themed episode of her television show in December 1963.
- Amy Grant (from her 1983 Christmas album A Christmas Album)
- Josh Groban
- Hampton String Quartet
- Eddie Higgins
- Hootie & the Blowfish
- Whitney Houston
- Ramon "RJ" Jacinto (from his 1988 Christmas album Pasko Na Naman)
- The Jackson 5
- Alan Jackson (from his 2007 Christmas album Let It Be Christmas)
- Al Jarreau
- Wynonna Judd
- Peggy Lee
- Damien Leith (from a special limited Christmas edition of his 2007 album Where We Land)
- The Lettermen
- Aimee Mann (from her 2006 album One More Drifter in the Snow)
- Martina McBride
- Reba McEntire
- Brian McKnight
- Ricky Nelson (on the episode of TV's The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet titled "A Busy Christmas")
- Aaron Neville
- New Kids on the Block
- Des O'Connor (from a Tesco Christmas advert)
- Alexander O'Neal
- Olivia Olson (from a 2010 Christmas album Phineas and Ferb: Holiday Favourites)
- The Partridge Family (from their 1971 Christmas album A Partridge Family Christmas Card)
- Les Paul
- CeCe Peniston (from the 1996 Christmas album Merry Arizona II: Desert Stars Shine at Christmas)
- LeAnn Rimes (on her first holiday album What a Wonderful World)
- Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (from their 1963 Christmas album Christmas with The Miracles)
- Linda Ronstadt (from her 2000 Christmas album A Merry Little Christmas)
- Diane Schuur (nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Female in 1990)
- Neil Sedaka (from his 2008 first-ever holiday album, The Miracle of Christmas)
- Jessica Simpson
- Frank Sinatra (including two recordings: a virtual duet with Nat King Cole, and an actual duet with Bing Crosby)
- George Strait
- Donna Summer
- Demi Lovato
- The Supremes (remained unreleased until their 1965 Christmas album, Merry Christmas, was re-released in 1999 with additional tracks)
- Take 6
- James Taylor
- Team Rocket (voiced by Rachael Lillis, Eric Stewart and Maddie Blaustein on the album Pokémon Christmas Bash)
- The Temptations
- Twisted Sister
- Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons
- Luther Vandross
- Andy Williams
- Stevie Wonder (from his 1967 Christmas album Someday at Christmas)
- Dwight Yoakam
- Ascap entry for song showing numerous other covers
Christina Aguilera version
"The Christmas Song" Single by Christina Aguilera from the album My Kind of Christmas Released November 23, 1999 Format CD single Recorded 1998 Genre pop
Length 4:25 Label RCA Writer(s) Mel Tormé, Bob Wells Producer 2000 Thunderpuss, Ron Fair Christina Aguilera singles chronology "What a Girl Wants"
"The Christmas Song"
"I Turn to You"
"The Christmas Song" was covered by pop singer Christina Aguilera for her holiday album, My Kind of Christmas. Her vocal range on the track spans from"C3 to "C♯7. Released in 1999, the single debuted at #87 and peaked at #18 on the Billboard Hot 100, the first single by Aguilera not to reach #1 nor enter the top 10. The single was not released in the UK.
- The title of The Simpsons episode "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" is a parody of the song.
- Bob Rivers parodied the song with his 2000 album, and the title track from said album, "Chipmunks Roasting On an Open Fire."
- Stan Freberg's "Green Chri$tma$" includes several snippets of holiday songs. One segment begins with a sincere-sounding "Chestnuts roasting..." and quickly segués into a mock 1950s radio or TV ad, for a brand of chestnuts, being described as if they were toothpaste or cigarettes.
- Twisted Sister parodied the song in his 2006 album A Twisted Christmas.
- Flyleaf released a song entitled "Christmas Song" on their EP, "Music as a Weapon." The song has nothing to do with the original, and features the story of Jesus' birth.
- ^ Edison Media Research: What We Learned From Testing Christmas Music in 2004
- ^ Grammy Hall of Fame
- ^ "The Polly Bergen Show". Classic Television Archives. http://ctva.biz/US/MusicVariety/PollyBergenShow.htm. Retrieved January 9, 2011.
- ^ Christina Aguilera, My Kind of Christmas Retrieved October 21, 2011
- ^ Christina Aguilera's charting singles Retrieved October 21, 2011
1990s"Finally" (1991) · "I Like It" (1991) · "We Got a Love Thang" (1992) · "Keep On Walkin'" (1992) · "Inside That I Cried" (1992) · "Crazy Love" (1992) · "Searchin'" (1993) · "I'm in the Mood" (1993) · "I Will Be Received" (1994) · "I'm Not Over You" (1994) · "Hit by Love" (1994) · "Keep Givin' Me Your Love" (1995) · "Movin' On" (1996) · "Before I Lay" (1996) · "Finally '97" (1997) · "Somebody Else's Guy" (1998) · "I Know You Want Me" (1998) · "Nobody Else (1998) · "He Loves Me 2" (1999)Other songs:"Kickin' Da Blues" (1991) · "Female Preacher" (1991) · "Goody Goody" (1993) · "Don't Forget the Love" (1994) · "How I Got Over" (1995) · "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" (1995) · "Precious Memories" (1995) · "Oh Happy Day" (1995) · "All That I Need" (1996) · "The Christmas Song" (1996) · "What a Wonderful World" (1997) · "When I'm with You" (1998) · "Keep It Real" (1998) 2000s"Lifetime to Love" (2000) · "My Boo" (2001) · "Reminiscin" (2001) · "For My Baby" (2003) · "Eternal Lover" (2004) · "Deeper Love" (2005) · "You Are the Universe (DJ Hasebe Remix)" (2006) · "I'm Feelin' U" (2007) · "Shame Shame Shame" (2007) · "Still I" (2007) · "Finally '08" (2008) · "Above Horizons" (2009)Other songs: 2010s"In Love with a DJ" (2010) · "Stoopid!" (2011) · "Keep On Flossing" (2011) · "Finally '11" (2011)Other songs:"Make Me Say Oh" (2011) · "Runway" (2011) · "Deeper Love 2011" (2011) Related articlesDiscography · Awards Book · Category · Template · Portal Christina Aguilera singles Discography Christina Aguilera Mi Reflejo My Kind of Christmas Stripped Back to Basics Keeps Gettin' Better: A Decade of Hits Bionic"Not Myself Tonight" · "Woohoo" · "You Lost Me" Featured singles Soundtrack singles Other songs"Walk Away" · "Lift Me Up" · "Express" · "Castle Walls" Book · Category · Portal
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