These 10 Christmas songs were hits when the baby boomers were kids or young adults, and are now classics. These quality songs are still being played on the radio today, and the reruns of the television specials that many of them are a part of, are being enjoyed all over again by the boomer’s kids and grandkids. Read the stories behind the songs.
The first 4 songs are from these four classic animated Christmas television specials that still air every year:
1. Burl Ives – Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer –
The song was written by Johnny Marks, and was based on a poem written by his brother in law Robert L. May in 1939. It was recorded by Gene Autry in 1949 and was #1 on Billboard pop singles chart at Christmas that year.
2. Vince Guaraldi Trio – Christmastime is Here– A Charlie Brown Christmas TV special 1965
Peanut’s creator Charles Schultz asked pianist Vince Guaraldi and his trio to put together the soundtrack for his Charlie Brown Christmas special, and he did an extraordinary job in capturing the funny and whimsical story with music that we know and love. Christmastime is Here is one of the most memorable songs on one of the most popular Christmas albums of all time.
3. Thurl Ravenscroft – You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, TV special 1966
The lyrics were written by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. Albert Hague arranged the music and Suess was happy that Hague could slide a full octave on the word “Grinch”. The Grinch’s character was based on Suess’s grouchy feelings during the Christmas season. Anyone who has tried to park at the mall on Christmas Eve, or lined up at numerous checkouts can relate; but like us, the Grinch’s heart expands by Christmas time and he is transformed.
“The Grinch that stole Christmas” on vhs, was on constant rewind in the 1990’s at our house. My three sons watched it at Christmas, in the spring, in the summer, and in the fall. They loved Dr. Suess’s classic Christmas special so much, they wore out the tape from rewinding it so many times, until a message appeared at the beginning of the tape that said “tracking” for the first five minutes.
The original 1966 version of the animated Christmas special was expertly narrated by Boris Karloff. My son’s favorite part of the show was when the song: “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” was sung. I assumed Boris Karloff was the singer of the famous song, until I learned that Boris Karloff couldn’t sing. Instead, actor Thurl Ravenscroft, ( who did the voice of Tony The Tiger for Frosted Flakes), sang the song, but his name was left out of the credits in error on the original film. Isn’t that grrrrrreeeat trivia?
4. Jimmy Durante – Frosty The Snowman, Frosty The Snowman TV special 1969
This song was written by Walter Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson and was recorded by Gene Autry and the Country Boys in 1950, a year after the successful Rudolph, and although it never mentions Christmas, it remains one of the most popular Christmas songs ever. Jimmy Durante is unforgettable as narrator and singer.
5. Ross Bagdasarian – Alvin and The Chipmunks Christmas Time Is Here (Christmas Don’t Be Late) 1958
– Bagdasarian sang the song and released it in 1958. To make the voices sound like chipmunks he sped up the playback. It topped the Billboard charts for 4 weeks and won 3 Grammy awards. Bagdasarian died of a heart attack in 1972, and in 1981 his son, Ross Bagdasarian Jr. released A Chipmunk Christmas, the animated Christmas tv special.
6. Burl Ives – Holly Jolly Christmas, Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer TV special 1964.
Burl Ives released the Johnny Mark’s song as a single the following Christmas along with “Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Silver and Gold” and had great success with the singles. This song remains the favorite Christmas song of many people to this day.
7. Gayla Peevey – I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas – 1953
This song was released at Christmas time in 1953 when Gayla was 10 years old. She performed the song on The Ed Sullivan show before it was released in October of that year. The song reached #24 on the charts. The Oklahoma City Zoo did a newspaper promotion to raise money from the public to buy Gayla a hippo. She received Matilda the hippo which she donated to the Oklahoma zoo, and Matilda lived there for over 40 years and had many babies that were given to other zoos across the United States.
8. Spike Jones & The City Slickers – George Rock (lead vocal) – All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth, 1947.
The song was written in 1944 by Donald Yetter Gardner who was a public school music teacher in New York. While teaching music to his second grade class, Donald Yetter Gardner asked his students what they wanted for Christmas, and saw that most of them had one or two front teeth missing and that they talked with a lisp. He wrote the song in 30 minutes, and it was recorded it in 1947. It was a hit on the pop charts in 1948 and in 1949.
9. Rolf Harris – Six White Boomers – 1965
Australian Christmas song, written when the temperature was 100 degrees fahrenheit in Australia. Boomers are special white Kangaroos used in Australia by Santa instead of reindeer.
Their names are: Jackaroo, Bluey, Curly, Two-Up, Desert-Head, and Snow.
10. Royal Guardsmen – Snoopy’s Christmas – 1967
Fictitious song, but based on a true story that occurred during World War I in 1914. German soldiers (not the officers) initiated a “Christmas truce” with the British soldiers between Christmas and New Years. The truce varied in length depending on location, but the soldiers exchanged small gifts of beer and tobacco across the lines.