Beloved Christmas carols: The Christmas Song

In a web environment, someone can write an article or record a song and put it online immediately. Conventional publishers must work months in advance of publication. Whatever new magazine articles on Christmas, Christmas record albums, etc. appear this month were probably written some time last summer. Once upon a time, selling sheet music made at least as much money as recordings. Publishers often had song-writing teams under contract to provide new music.

On a hot July day in 1946, lyricist Bob Wells was not thinking of songs for Christmas or otherwise. He only cared about cooling off. Swimming didn’t help. Neither did taking a cold shower or anything else he could think of. So he decided to think about a wintry scene and conjure up something cold in his imagination to see if that would help.

After he had written a few lines, beginning “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose,” his partner Mel Tormé dropped by and asked about them. Hearing the explanation, he suggested they write a song. Over the forty-five minutes it took them to complete the words and the music, a winter song had become “The Christmas Song.”

The publishers turned it down. To their way of thinking, the way the song introduced Santa Claus meant that the song could only make sense on Christmas Eve. No one would buy a one-day-a-year song.

Rather than reworking the words, Wells and Tormé sang the song for Nat King Cole, who loved it and asked for exclusive rights to record and perform it. The publishers reluctantly decided that if Cole wanted to record the song, they might as well take a chance. The rest, as they say, is history.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *