today the Japanese launched their
devastating surprise attack on Pearl Harbor thrusting the United States into a bloody worldwide conflagration and forever
altering the lives and destinies of millions. It also cast a somber pall over Christmas festivities getting underway stateside
just as the last vestiges of the Great
Depression were being shaken off and folks had money to spend for
a long war ahead with families and sweethearts wrenched by separation and fear, people turned to music for comfort, especially at Christmas time. There were many war-time Christmas
songs written and recorded—almost every Big Band with a singer had at least one in their repertoire. They filled the holiday radio shows and were transcribed
to be played for the troops around the world. Many of the songs were forgettable, but some
have become timeless classics.
my father, First Sargent W. M. Murfin posted to a forward American field hospital attached
to the British and Anzac forces under Field Marshall Montgomery in North
Africa in 1942, the song that brightened a cold night in the desert was White
Christmas, the Irving Berlin song
that made its debut in Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Its wistful
note of nostalgia plucked many
hearts and cemented its place as the most
beloved secular American Christmas song.
in the war, millions thought that Judy
Garland was singing for them as well as for Margaret O’Brien when she crooned the melancholy Have
Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
1943 Bing Crosby scored again with a song aimed directly at lonely servicemen
far from home and their families. I’ll be Home For Christmas by lyricist
Kim Gannon and composer Walter Kent was released by Decca Records and became a top
ten hit and Crosby’s fifth Gold
Record. Buck Ram was later also
given credit after a lawsuit because
he had written a poem with the same name and similar sentiments.
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.
has been covered by Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Johnny Mathis,
Connie Francis, The Carpenters, Anita Baker, Kelly Clarkson, Michael
Bublé, Pentatonix, and Demi Lovato among many others.
But Der Bingle did it best.