celebrate what may or may not be the busiest travel day of the holiday
season given the storms and record breaking cold lashing much
of the U.S. this year with a classic American popular Christmas song by Robert Allen with lyrics
by Al Stillman written in 1954. Perry Como had a huge hit with (There’s No Place Like) Home for
the Holidays which has become an oft
recorded classic. But no one sang
it better than Karen Carpenter.
song is best classified under the secular urban advent popular holiday music. Although it sprawls far and wide from city sidewalks it shares the same contemporary feel of post-World War II America with a swinging, spritely style. It evokes nostalgia without ever getting much
more specific than a passing reference to “homemade
pumpkin pie” with just repeated references to home. And even home is not
well defined—no reference to mom and dad, the old folks, a farm or village or city neighborhood. Home is
whatever place you feel connected to
in some deep way and whatever family of blood or choice
“Holidays” were not very specific either. No mention of Christmas, Chanukah, or New
Years. Maybe Thanksgiving qualified.
Which is why the propagators of
War on Christmas nonsense should hate this
song if they give it a second thought.
generation or two earlier most Americans grew
up and stayed in the place of
their birth or its immediate environs which usually was well stocked
with a wide circle of extended family. But two World
Wars, the Great Depression,
post-war prosperity, and transportation revolutions had changed
that for a great many folks. The new normal was going away to college or
entering the military after high school graduation and then finding a job someplace else and
establishing a new nuclear family. People were expected to go where opportunity
beckoned and the corporate culture of
the time often required frequent relocations. Even if you stayed in the same state or general vicinity of “home” chances are that you lived in one of the
new sprawling suburbs.
the war and with the new prosperity, the automobile
and modern highways had
supplanted the railroads as the main
means of getting wherever you were going.
So Home for the Holidays is a
song about driving. If it had been written a decade later with jet air travel at a cost that many could afford, the song might have mentioned busy airports and the places cited might have been too far apart
for a day or so road trip. It was very much a song of its time.
still works for us, at least for geezers
like me, because it makes us
nostalgic for that time. But also,
because many of us still have a home we go to for the Holidays—or are the home
to which our progeny and descendants come.
released the song on RCA Victor accompanied
by Mitchell Ayres’
Orchestra and the Ray Charles
Singers. He showcased it on a
Christmas TV special helping to establish that as a long running holiday
tradition. Each edition of the Como
Christmas show was sure to feature his biggest holiday hit. The song registered a No. 8 on the Cash
Box magazine top 50 and made
the charts again the next year when it was re-released. In 1959 Como with the same back-up recorded a new stereo version with a slightly
different arrangement by Joe Lipman. It was successfully released as a single by RCA Victor and included on
the top selling album Season’s Greetings from Perry Como as well as on numerous compilation albums. This is the version commonly heard on Christmas radio and is licensed to TV commercials.
is also the version that The Carpenters adapted
for their 1974 album Christmas Portrait
and included on their 1984 LP An
Old Fashioned Christmas which was released after Karen’s death.