An Accidental Phenomenon?
"White Christmas" was introduced in the 1942 musical "Holiday Inn," sung by Bing Crosby. The producers of the film obviously underestimated when they calculated just how deep a chord this little film would strike within a public amid World War II. The song's composer, Irving Berlin, had doubts about the short, 2-verse Christmas carol's power, but Bing Crosby assured him the song was a winner. This was another great understatement in history! The song won the Academy Award for Best Song in 1942. Not bad for 18 minutes work -- the time it took Bing to record the song!
Irving Berlin called "White Christmas" an "amusing little number". Who knew it would top the charts for eleven weeks in 1942 and go on to sell over 30 million copies that year? It was a record it would hold until 1998 when Elton John released "Candle in the Wind," his tribute to Princess Diana after her death.
"White Christmas" was introduced in the 1942, perfect timing for a country longing for a simple, longing-for-home song. It first appeared in the MGM musical Holiday Inn, starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby, who recorded the song. Deservedly, "White Christmas" won Best Song of 1942 at the Academy Awards. Eight years later in 1954, Berlin's "White Christmas" was used and sung again by Crosby in the musical White Christmas. In connection with both films, Crosby recorded "White Christmas" for Decca Records.
The Composer of "White Christmas" - Irving Berlin
While Crosby is widely known for his rendition of "White Christmas," Irving Berlin is not as often connected to the Christmas hit. Born in Israel in 1888, Berlin published his first song in 1907. His songs were varied, ranging from the patriotic "God Bless America" in 1918 to "Puttin' on the Ritz," written in the 1930s. He donated millions of dollars of his royalties from "White Christmas" to the Army Emergency Relief and to the Boy and Girl Scouts. On September 22nd, 1989, at the age of 101, Berlin died in his sleep in New York City. But his "White Christmas" lives on.
"White Christmas" Today
Today, "White Christmas" is regarded as the most-performed holiday song in recording history. There are an estimated 500 versions that have been performed in at least 25 languages. Not bad for an "amusing little number."
The Snowy White Christmas
In 1942, Bing Crosby crooned about a white Christmas, and a dream is just what a snowy Dec. 25 has become in several parts of the United States, according to statistics provided by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Looking at 16 cities, mainly in the north, since 1960, the number of white Christmases per decade declined from 78 during the 1960s to 39 in the 1990s.
People in Chicago, for example, saw the number of white Christmases, defined as at least one inch of snow on the ground, drop from seven in the 1960s to two during the 1990s.
In New York, the number declined from five in the 1960s to one this past decade. Detroit had just three white Christmases in the 1990s vs. nine in the 1960s.
But in several cities, the number of white Christmases has been fairly constant. Looking at the 1960s, '70s, '80s and'90s, Tahoe City, Calif., had eight, seven, eight and nine white Christmases, respectively. Salt Lake City's number of white Christmases per decade were seven, seven, eight and eight. Minneapolis/St. Paul had eight white Christmases in the 1960s, seven in each of the following two decades and eight in the 1990s.
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