3. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Hugh Martin, the author of the song, was asked twice to make the lyrics to this rather depressive carol a bit more cheerful. First, he replaced the line “It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past” to “Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight” for Judy Garland. Then he changed the lyric “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow” to “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough” because Frank Sinatra told him the lyrics weren’t jolly enough for his album, A Jolly Christmas.
4. “Silent Night”
Though this carol is typically sung as a solemn dirge today, it was originally written to be performed in 6/8 time, a much faster tempo.
7. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”
Randy Brooks wrote this novelty hit after listening to the Merle Haggard song “Grandma’s Homemade Christmas Card.” He was so upset the grandma’s death wasn’t revealed earlier in the song that he decided to write a song in response, as a sort of formal challenge. “I got angry and said, ‘Merle, that’s so unfair to do to people,’” Brooks said. “If you were half the songwriter you think you are, you would admit in the first line of the song that grandma was dead and then if you could come up with three verses and a chorus, you’d really have something. So that was my exercise, a parody of a Merle Haggard song.”
9. “Last Christmas”
Wham! released this single the same year as Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, so they decided to donate all proceeds of the song to the same Ethiopian famine appeal. It has gone on to actually raise more money than “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” It’s also the highest-selling single in the United Kingdom to never reach No. 1.
11. “Jingle Bell Rock”
Bobby Helms originally didn’t want to record this song because the music was too low for his voice. The writers, who were motivated by royalties, told him to change the song however he needed to. He would later claim he deserved a writing credit. Also the B-side to the original single is a bizarre song called “Captain Santa Claus (and His Reindeer Space Patrol).” Keep in mind this came out in 1957.
13. “The Christmas Shoes”
15. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was a character created by the Montgomery Ward company to star in a coloring book distributed as a holiday gift given away in their department stores. The story was penned by a copywriter named Robert L. May, but his brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, adapted it into a song. Marks wrote several other holiday standards, including “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Run Rudolph Run,” and “Silver and Gold.”