Dec. 11, 2011
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas) (right-click on the file for download)
How many times have you wanted to really roast chestnuts over an open fire? There is something about this song and the Christmas season. Whether it was Mel Tomme or this version by Nat King Cole, the song itself just seems to usher in the Christmas season. It is probably one the most well known secular Christmas tunes. I remember hearing the scratch of the needle on the record as this song played.
“The Christmas Song” (commonly subtitled “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” or, as it was originally subtitled, “Merry Christmas to You“) is a classic Christmas song written in 1944 by musician, composer, and vocalist Mel Tormé (nicknamed in the music industry as “The Velvet Fog”) and Bob Wells. According to Tormé, the song was written during a blistering hot summer. In an effort to “stay cool by thinking cool,” the most-performed (according to BMI) Christmas song was born.
But for today’s version I choose Nat King Cole. The Nat King Cole Trio first recorded the song early in 1946. At Cole’s behest — and over the objections of his label, Capitol Records — a second recording was made the same year utilizing a small string section, this version becoming a massive hit on both the pop and R&B charts. Cole again recorded the song in 1953, using the same arrangement with a full orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, and once more in 1961, in a stereophonic version with orchestra conducted by Ralph Carmichael. Nat King Cole’s 1961 version is generally regarded as definitive, and in 2004 was the most loved seasonal song with women aged 30–49, while Cole’s original 1946 recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1974. Mel Tormé recorded the song himself in 1954, and again in 1961, 1966 and 1992.