Five Classic Christmas Songs from the 1940s

Winter Wonderland, Perry Como

Included on the album ‘Perry Como Sings Merry Christmas Music’ this is still one of the most recognised versions of this popular Christmas song. Originally written by Felix Bernard and lyricist Richard Bernhard Smith in 1937, ‘Winter Wonderland’ was a top ten hit for Perry Como in 1946 and has been recorded by over 200 artists since its release. Como is accompanied by American smooth harmony group The Satisfiers. The song tells a story of two young lovers at Christmas, and summons up a magical picture of the perfect snowy wintery walk.

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Santa Clause is Coming to Town, Bing Crosby

It’s not possible to write a list of classic Christmas songs without including Bing Crosby, the real challenge is deciding which of his many hits to choose. His version of ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ was recorded with The Andrews Sisters as part of a seasonal album in 1943. Written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie, the earliest version of the song was recorded by banjoist Harry Reser and his band on October 24, 1934. Later versions have been recorded by numerous artists, from Jackson Five to Micheal Buble.

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting), Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole recorded The Christmas Song three times, first in 1946 with The Nat King Cole Trio, followed by another version in 1953, and finally again in 1961. Written by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé in 1945, the pair reportedly wrote the song during an incredibly hot day in June. Cole’s earliest version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1974 and continues to be a popular choice for vintage Christmas song lists even today.

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Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Gene Autry

In 1939 Robert L. May was commissioned to create a story about Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer on behalf of department store Montgomery Ward. Songwriter Johnny Marks spotted the musical potential of the story and turned it into a song, with added influence from the 1823 poem ‘The Night Before Christmas’ the original source of the other reindeer names. The song was first suggested as a “B” side for another record that Autry was making in 1949. He reportedly disliked the song and was reluctant to record it before his wife convinced him otherwise. A wise decision, his version entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #36 in 2018, nearly 70 years after it first charted.

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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

The poem link – read by Perry Como

Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Vaughn Monroe

Recorded five years before the Frank Sinatra version, the original was released by Vaughn Monroe in 1945. Written by lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne, this ubiquitous Christmas song actually makes no mention of Christmas in the lyrics. But that hasn’t prevented it from being one the most popular songs of all time. With more recent recordings by singers such as Carly Simon, Rod Stewart and even the cast of Glee, Monroe’s is perhaps most recognised for its inclusion in the cult Christmas film that isn’t a Christmas film, Die Hard.

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