was a whole genre of World War II
separation songs that have become enduring
classics of 20th Century popular
music. Think I’ll Be Seeing You, The
White Cliffs of Dover, and Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree to
name just a few examples. And of course there was a sub-genre of Christmas songs. Irving
Berlin’s White Christmas, the
most popular adult secular holiday
song of all time, was written before the American
entry into the War inspired by a hot day in Los Angeles. But its record release by Bing Crosby in late 1941 and his crooning the tune in Paramount
Picture’s Holiday Inn in 1942
struck a nerve with G.I.s far from
home and many in desert or tropical locations. I have written
about how my Father, W.M. Murfin
played it for the men of his Army Field
Hospital and its patients in North Africa in ’42.
another Crosby recording struck an even more direct chord with GIs and their families back home—I’ll Be Home For Christmas and
this year of Coronavirus forced
separations makes it more relevant than ever.
I’ll Be Home for Christmas was written by lyricist Kim Gannon and composer
Walter Kent and recorded on October 1, 1943 by Bing Crosby with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra on Decca Records. Within a month of
release, the song charted for 11 weeks, with a peak at #3. The next year, it
reached #16. It soon became a perennial on Christmas radio
and after Billboard established a separate seasonal chart for air play it was frequently near the
top. The song was also featured on
Crosby’s famous 1945 78 rpm album
and it’s LP release in 1949 which
has itself been re-released and re-mastered several more times.
won his fifth Gold Record and it became the most requested song at Christmas U.S.O. shows. The GI magazine
said Crosby “accomplished more for military morale than anyone else of that
era.” But the British feared the song
would actually lower morale and
initially banned it on the BBC.
After the tide turned in the Allies favor, the ban was lifted.
the initial release there was a copyright
dispute when Buck Ram, later the
manager and producer of The Platters
said he had previously written a poem with the same name and theme. Although the lyrics and music of the released
version were entirely different, Decca lawyers feared that they could not prove
that Gannon and Kent may not have been inspired by the title. After the initial release Ram was credited as a co-writer and shared in the considerable royalties the song generated.
I’ll Be Home for Christmas has been
covered by many most notably by Johnny
Mathis on his seminal Merry Christmas album in 1958. Other covers have included The Carpenters, Elvis Presley, Reba McIntyre, Rascal Flats, Josh Groban, Michael Bublé,
and Kelly Clarkson.
As fine as many
of those versions are, Der Bingle’s remains
the most heartfelt.