‘The Christmas Song’ tops list of holiday songs

NEW YORK—As the year 2005 draws to a close and seasonal music fills the air, The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the world’s largest performing rights organization, recently announced its Top 25 most-performed holiday songs for the first five years of the 21st century based on their most recent performance data. Recorded over and over, and revived by each decade’s most popular artists, these holiday favorites remain timeless classics, appealing to young and old alike.

The most-performed ASCAP holiday song of the 21st century is “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” written by Robert Wells and singing great Mel Tormé. The song, written when Tormé was 19 and Wells was 22, became a seasonal classic with the release of Nat “King” Cole’s 1946 recording. Cole’s version remains the most popular on radio today. Other popular recordings include versions by Celine Dion, Luther Vandross and Natalie Cole.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie, was a close second. This perennial, originally written in 1934, was recorded the same year by orchestra leader George Hall, and is frequently heard today in versions by Bruce Springsteen, and the Crystals.

“Santa Baby,” written by Joan Javits, Philip Springer and Tony Springer and Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” have established themselves as seasonal favorites. Originally a hit for Eartha Kitt in 1953, “Santa Baby” was given new interest via the popular recording by Madonna. McCartney’s holiday classic is of comparatively recent vintage, first recorded in 1979.

A song on the move is “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,” by Edward Pola and George Wyle, written in 1963 and first recorded by Andy Williams. Other popular recordings include versions by Amy Grant, Garth Brooks, and Peabo Bryson.

Marilyn Bergman, ASCAP president and chairman of the board, said: “More than anything else, music sets the mood for the holidays, evoking the magic of the season and memories of holidays past. These timeless classics have been recorded by artists in every genre, yet each song retains the original stamp of its creators.”

ASCAP’s top 25 holiday songs

1. “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)”—Mel Tormé, Robert Wells

2. “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”—Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie

3. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”—Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin

4. “Winter Wonderland”—Felix Bernard, Richard B. Smith

5. “White Christmas”—Irving Berlin

6. “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”—Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne

7. “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer”—Johnny Marks

8. “Jingle Bell Rock”—Joseph Carleton Beal, James Ross Boothe

9. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”—Walter Kent, Kim Gannon, Buck Ram

10. “Little Drummer Boy”—Katherine K. Davis, Henry V. Onorati, Harry Simeone

11. “Sleigh Ride”—Leroy Anderson, Mitchell Parish

12. “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”—Edward Pola, George Wyle

13. “Silver Bells”—Jay Livingston, Ray Evans

14. “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”—Johnny Marks

15. “Feliz Navidad”—José Feliciano

16. “Blue Christmas”—Billy Hayes, Jay W. Johnson

17. “Frosty The Snowman”—Steve Nelson, Walter E. Rollins

18. “A Holly Jolly Christmas”—Johnny Marks

19. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”—Tommie Connor (PRS)

20. “Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)”—Gene Autry, Oakley Haldeman

21. “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”—Meredith Willson

22. “(There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays”—Bob Allen, Al Stillman

23. “Carol Of The Bells”—Peter J. Wilhousky, Mykola Leontovich

24. “Santa Baby”—Joan Ellen Javits, Philip Springer, Tony Springer

25. “Wonderful Christmastime”—Paul McCartney (PRS)

Facts about the top 25

Oldest songs: “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and “Winter Wonderland” (both 1934)

Newest Song: “Wonderful Christmastime” (1979)

Songs introduced in motion pictures: “White Christmas” in Holiday Inn (1942); “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944); “Silver Bells” in The Lemon Drop Kid (1950)

Writer with most Top Holiday Songs: Johnny Marks with three—“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and “A Holly Jolly Christmas”

Most recorded Holiday Song: “White Christmas” with well more than 500 versions in dozens of languages


Established in 1914, ASCAP is the first and leading U.S. performing rights organization representing the world’s largest repertory totaling more than 8 million copyrighted musical works of every style and genre from more than 225,000 composer, lyricist and music publisher members.

ASCAP also represents the repertories created by the international affiliates of 70 foreign performing rights organizations.

ASCAP protects the rights of its members and foreign affiliates by licensing the public performances of their copyrighted works and distributing royalties based upon surveyed performances.

ASCAP is the only American Performing Rights Organization owned and governed by its writer and publisher members. More info: www.ascap.com.

From the Dec. 21-27, 2005, issue

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