220px-Single_Gene_Autry-Rudolph,_the_Red-Nosed_Reindeer_coverGene Autry – “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” – (1949)

Gene Autry made a career off of novelty records. Sure, he was the singing cowboy but his Christmas songs are what stood the test of time. Autry didn’t write this song (it was written in 1939) but his version is what made it a song sung in every household. In fact, this song was a #1 hit. Interestingly, this was the only #1 hit to fall completely off the charts from the top spot – a dubious honor, but understandable considering its content and timeliness. Merry Christmas. 

Teresa Brewer – “Music! Music! Music!” – (1949)

“Put another nickel in, in the nickelodeon” is the opening line to this #1 hit from 1950. It was released in December of 1949 and other than that catchy hook of a chorus, the song is just okay. It could be construed as kind of annoying. It was Brewer’s biggest hit and signature song. Teresa Brewer was born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1931 and died in New York state in 2007.

Bing Crosby – “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” – (1943)

Here’s a classic. It was written by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent and first recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943. It peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 in 1943. What I love about it is the wartime message within the song if you listen to it and think about what it must’ve meant to people in the mid-1940s who were trying to celebrate Christmas while their family members were freezing in Europe on fighting for their lives on some faraway island in the south Pacific. It’s a wonderful song from a time when life was both simpler and more complicated.

Vaughn Monroe & His Orchestra – “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” – (1946)

Well this is one of the best-selling songs of all time. It was written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne in 1945 – in July. In California. On one of the hottest days ever recorded. Vaughn Monroe recorded it later that year and it became a smash hit in 1946 – in fact, hitting #1. Strangely, even though this is always played during Christmas and is widely regarded as a Christmas song, it never mentions Christmas. It’s our association of snow and Christmas that makes it a “Christmas song.” Many people have recorded this song, but this was the first – and remains the definitive version.

Hector Varela – “Lilian” – (1940s)

Welcome to Tango Week! For whatever reason, I think tango music sounds awesome. It’s so evocative and dramatic. So this week we’ll be feature five different tango songs (actually one of them is an album). First up is a song from the 1940s – I haven’t been able to source an exact year, as doing so from foreign artists (especially older ones) can prove quite difficult. Hector Varela was a tango musician and bandleader from Argentina, getting his start in the early 1930s. He proved rather popular in Argentina in the 50s and 60s. This is a random song I came across from him and you’ll probably be able to notice, by week’s end, how tango has evolved through the years.

Judy Garland – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – (1944)

It seems like there were a bunch of great, classic Christmas songs recorded in the 1940s – and there were. This song originally appeared in the film Meet Me in St. Louis, sung by Judy Garland. Frank Sinatra did another popular version later on. Mel Torme’s version appeared in Home Alone and is also very popular. Just another one of those 20th Century Christmas tunes.

Nat King Cole Trio – “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)” – (1946)

I have the sneaking suspicion that the video I linked to above is seasonal… but maybe not. Maybe Nat King Cole didn’t get a YouTube account until August of 2011. Who knows. This is one of the most beloved Christmas songs of all time. The title isn’t terribly original but the song itself is pure class. Most people refer to it by its opening line “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” It’s been covered by just about everyone – Cole recorded it first, although it was written by Mel Torme, who later recorded it himself. According to BMI, this is the most performed Christmas song. Not hard to see why.