Irving Berlin: “White Christmas”


Irving Berlin (1888 –1989) was a Russian-born American composer and songwriter who produced over eight hundred songs, many of which were really popular. His patriotic songs, especially “God Bless America,” summed up the feelings of Americans at the time.
One of his most famous songs is “White Christmas”, one of the most recorded songs in history. The music and lyrics were written in 1940 or 1942 . According to one account he wrote it in 1940, in California, while staying either at the La Quinta Hotel, or at a friend’s house, in Banning. It was New Year’s Day and Irving, looking out of the window, found out it had started to snow lightly. Snowfalls are not so frequent there, so Irving lyrics were inspired by the surprise of that snowfall, during the early morning hours.

According to another version, he began writing this on 8 January, 1942. He was in a hurry that Monday morning and shouted at his secretary:“Grab your pen and take down this song. It’s the best song I ever wrote. Hell, it’s the best song anybody ever wrote.”

Christmas was a painful time for Irving Berlin, because in 1928, on Christmas morning he had found his infant son dead in his cradle.

The song was originally featured in the movie Holiday Inn starring Bing Crosby.
The lyrics of White Christmas struck a chord with the soldiers fighting in the Second World War, after the attack on Pearl Harbour which led to US involvement: that was their first Christmas away, in the Pacific, under sunny skies that made home seem even more faraway.
It also marked the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, when, as the North Vietnamese surrounded Saigon, an evacuation plan was put into effect to bring the remaining Americans to safety.
The recording was broadcast on the radio on 30 April, 1975, as a secret pre-arranged signal hastening the U.S. evacuation of Saigon. The code for evacuation was a radio announcement stating that the temperature in Saigon was 112 degrees and rising, followed by the playing of “White Christmas.”.
Another important date connected to this song is its recording as the first track on Phil Spector’ s 1963 Christmas album: “A Christmas Gift for You” containing a series of Christmas song.  The album was released in the United States on 22 November, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

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