Just about everyone loves "White Christmas," Irving Berlin's beautiful, longing ode to snow and the Christmas spirit that captures both the celebration and underlying melancholy present for many at the holiday. While Bing Crosby's version is the biggest-selling single of all time (temporarily elbowed aside by Elton John's Diana-tribute remake of "Candle In the Wind" - ugh), I am partial to the Drifter's swinging R&B version.
Not only is it the time of year for the perennial favorite to shine, but the tune has been in the news of late as well. The great singer Rosemary Clooney, who co-starred in the film White Christmas, died last June; she was the subject of a tribute gala this week:
- Hollywood paid belated last respects to singer Rosemary Clooney on Tuesday night with a star-studded gala in which a show business who's who recalled what a wonderful woman she was while Tony Bennett and kd Lang teamed up to sing "What a Wonderful World."
It was a night to remember as singers Linda Ronstadt, Diana Krall, Bennett, Lang, Keely Smith, Mimi Hines and Michael Feinstein serenaded an audience at the Beverly Hills Hilton hotel that ranged from celebrities including Nancy Sinatra, Diahann Carroll and Bob Hope's wife Dolores to nurses and neighbors of the singer who died last June after six decades singing jazz and pop tunes.
Her nephew, actor George Clooney, recalled her as a woman of wicked wit. He said that when he sent her a note asking "What's the hurry" in 1996 when she married a man she had lived with for decades, she replied "We had to, I'm pregnant."
....The evening ended with a film clip of Rosemary Clooney singing one of the songs most associated with sometime singing partner Bing Crosby: "I'm Dreaming of A White Christmas." [Reuters]
And I'll bet there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
The song is also the subject of a new book by Jody Rosen, reviewed by Barry Gewen in the NY Times:
- Superlatives have always attached themselves to ''White Christmas.'' It is the most recorded song of all time, and has been performed by everyone from the Beach Boys to Charlie Parker, from Bob Marley to Bob Dylan. It has been sung in Hungarian, Japanese, Swahili and Yiddish; when Berlin visited troops in New Guinea during World War II, he heard tribesmen singing it in their local language.
....Rosen gives us quick, serviceable biographies of Berlin and Crosby; traces the song's origins back to 1937, when Berlin was spending an unhappy Christmas in Beverly Hills, away from his family; provides just enough technical analysis to instruct readers without overwhelming them; explains how homesick G.I.'s adopted the poignant melody as their own wartime anthem; and examines Berlin's impact on Christmases down to the present.