The Christmas Song was written in 1945 by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells during a blistering hot summer in Los Angeles. It was subtitled Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire and also Merry Christmas to You. It was first recorded in June 1946 by Nat King Cole. He did a second recording of the song, which Capitol Records objected to, using a smaller musical accompaniment of strings. This version became a hit and rocketed to the top on both the Pop and R&B charts, a remarkable thing for a Christmas song. Cole re-recorded the tune again using a full orchestra in 1953 and again in 1961. This 1961 version done in stereophonic and with the orchestra conducted by Ralph Carmichael, became the definitive version of the song you here today on the radio or streamed on Christmas music channels. The original 1946 version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1974. The 1961 version has been included for preservation by the U.S. Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
As we draw closer to Christmas Day, songs that remind us of the various aspects of it fill the air. Some are sacred, some are fun, and some are just satirical or even worse in some cases. Not the case with Nat King Cole. It is a wonderful rendition of a timeless classic. Enjoy.
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“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” are the opening lines of The Christmas Song. The song has been performed by various artists over the years but the best, I think, are Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby. The song is quiet in its tone unlike other Christmas songs that belt out the tune with great force. Yet it manages to convey the Christmas season well and that kids are going to bed in great expectation of a visit from Santa Claus. And although not a song, a poem written in 1823 by Clement Clarke Moore, has also become a staple of Christmas. Titled “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” it is always worth a read on Christmas Eve.
A Visit from St. Nicholas
by Clement Clark Moore
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap, When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”