Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas songs written by Jewish songwriters

Nate Bloom has done extensive research on Christmas songs written by Jews. He says "the main reason that Jewish songwriters wrote and still write Christmas or holiday songs was and is commercial. A hit Christmas song means a lot of sales. [What he doesn't say is that very few new Christmas songs are accepted by the public and many singers are simply not interested in them.]

No doubt Bloom is right, though, when he says that Jewish as well as non-Jewish songwriters we "motivated by commercial considerations. They were professional tunesmiths ... and ... turned out songs on every imaginable topic."

And yet, "it would be a mistake to say that an important part of the spirit of Christmas--'good will to all'--was not in the air as both American Jewish and American non-Jewish songwriters penned their popular holiday tunes. Given the opportunities Jewish songwriters found in America--and the horrors they left behind in Europe--they must have felt an openness towards the Christmas spirit that their Old World forebears didn't."

Some of the most popular Christmas songs were written by Jewish songwriters (and that seems especially appropriate as the legendary baby Jesus was Jewish!):

1. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) - 1945 by Mel Torme and Bob Wells. Both were Jewish.

2. Do They Know It's Christmas? (Feed the World) - 1984. Midge Ure and Bob Geldorf for the "Live Aid" concert. Geldorf, raised a Roman Catholic, had Jewish ancestry.

3. Holly Jolly Christmas - 1962 - Johnny Marks. Marks studied music in Paris after graduating from Colgate University. He became a "prominent radio producer. He had a heroic World War II combat record, winning the Bronze Star and four battle stars. He wrote three of the most popular Christmas songs ever.

4. Rudoph the Red Nosed Reindeer - 1939 (written as a poem) - Johnny Marks.

5. Santa Baby - 1953 - Joan Ellen Javits.

6. Santa Claus is Coming to Town - First sung in 1934 - Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie. Coots was Jewish.

7. I'll Be Home for Christmas - 1943 - Walter Kent and Buck Ram. (Huge hit for Bing Crosby)

8. Silver Bells - 1951 - Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. Written for the Bob Hope movie, The Lemon Drop Kid.

9. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year - 1963 - George Wyle and Edward Poal. Wyle was Jewish.

10..Sleigh Ride - 1950 - Leroy Anderson and Mitchell Parish. Parish, the lyricist was Jewish.

11. Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! - 1945 - Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne (One of the best and most famous songwriting teams of all time!)

12. There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays - 1954 - Bob Allen and Al Stillman. Stillman was Jewish.

13. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree - 1958 - Johnny Marks.

14. White Christmas - 1940 - Irving Berlin.

15. Winter Wonderland - 1934 - Richard B. Smith and Felix Bernard. Bernard was Jewish.

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