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The Top Songs of Christmas Past

It’s hard not to get in the holiday spirit when you turn on Christmas music. So let’s take a look at some classic holiday songs to see how the sounds have changed through the decades.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (1934)

From the time Eddie Cantor sang this song on his radio show, it was an instant hit. Since then, hundreds of artists have recorded their own versions, including Bing Crosby, The Jackson Five, Fred Astaire and Mariah Carey. 

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1944)

Judy Garland first performed this song for the movie, “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Songwriter Hugh Martin threw away the original melody but tried again after some encouragement from fellow songwriter, Ralph Blaine. The song that almost wasn’t has now been covered by artists such as Garth Brooks, James Taylor and Bob Dylan.

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (1958)

This Christmas classic was recorded by Brenda Lee when she was just 13 years old. However, it didn’t catch on until Lee had a few hits under her belt in 1960. It has been featured in movies and commercials, with the most notable being “Home Alone” when Kevin fooled the burglars with a fake Christmas party featuring the song.

“A Holly Jolly Christmas” (1962)

Written in 1962 by Johnny Marks, this song was released in 1964 as the title track of The Quinto Sisters’ first album. Burl Ives, who voiced Sam the Snowman in the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” television special, recorded the most famous version. It has been on and off the Hot 100 charts for decades. 

“Wonderful Christmastime” (1979)

Paul McCartney recorded this holiday tune on his farm, where he was recording his “McCartney II” album. Although fans and critics have strong opinions of it, Forbes has estimated that McCartney earns $400,000 per year in royalties from the song.

“Hard Candy Christmas” (1982)

This song was written by Carol Hall for the musical “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” and was recorded by Dolly Parton when she starred in the film adaptation. Some question whether it’s truly a Christmas song, but it has remained a staple for holiday specials and albums.

“All I Want for Christmas is You” (1994)

Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff kept it so simple when they co-wrote this song that they managed to write its shell in only 15 minutes. Twenty-five years later and that simple melody has become one of the most popular Christmas songs of its time.

“Where Are You Christmas?” (2000)

Written for the movie “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” this song was originally recorded by Mariah Carey. After a legal battle with her now ex-husband cancelled its release, it was re-recorded by Faith Hill and has reached more than 977,000 downloads.

“Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)” (2012)

With their rock-opera style, Trans-Siberian Orchestra has become a staple of concert tours during Christmas. This song was one of their biggest hits in the last decade.  

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