white christmas

 As Berlin recalled in the Los Angeles Examiner (December 14, 1954): "I wrote it for a revue I intended producing, changed my mind and put it away until it was used in a Bing Crosby picture. At the time I had no idea 'White Christmas' would be a perennial hit or that Paramount would add to its popularity with a movie of the same name. When the song first became popular, I attributed it to the War and the fact that Christmas means peace. I felt that since people were singing it I ought to write another verse. But I couldn’t do it. New words would not come." "Much as I’d like to take a bow and say I anticipated its future success, I must admit I didn’t,” Berlin told the Jamaica (Long Island) Press (September 24, 1954). “Maybe because it was so easy, comparatively, to write I didn’t realize its potential. I wrote it in two rather brief sessions and that’s fast for a song. Some take a lot more work.”

 Irving Berlin writing 'White Christmas'

Irving Berlin writing 'White Christmas'

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According to Erskine Johnson (Los Angeles Mirror, December 21, 1954), the melody was written in August 1938, then left on the shelf for four years (actually two years) until Berlin was signed by Paramount to write Holiday Inn. Berlin told Johnson: “I took it off the shelf and polished the lyrics a little, and went to Bing’s dressing room at Paramount to get his okay on all the songs for the picture. I was nervous as a rabbit smelling stew. I sang several melodies and Bing nodded quiet approval. But when I did ‘White Christmas’ he came to life and said ‘Irving, you won’t have to worry about that one.’ " 

"We didn’t even think ‘White Christmas’ was the big song of the picture,” Berlin told Earl Wilson (December 12, 1953).“We started exploiting ‘Be Careful It’s My Heart,’ which was the Valentine song. But the public liked ‘White Christmas’ and it became a runaway. You see, a war song doesn’t have to be about wars. This is really a peace song.”

 

In December 1942 Carl Sandburg wrote the following for the Chicago Times: "We have learned to be a little sad and a little lonesome without being sickly about it. This feeling is caught in the song of a thousand juke boxes and the tune whistled in streets and homes. 'I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.' When we sing that we don’t hate anybody. And there are things we love that we’re going to have sometime if the breaks are not too bad against us. Way down under this latest hit of his Irving Berlin catches us where we love peace."

 Irving Berlin with Bing Crosby

Irving Berlin with Bing Crosby


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Excerpt(s) from The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin edited by Robert Kimball and Linda Emmet, copyright © 2001 by The Estate of Irving Berlin, Robert Kimball, and Linda Emmet. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing. Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.