The song of the day for Tuesday, September 29, 2015 is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
About This Song
Today’s song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” was written in 1943 by Hugh Martin (music) and Ralph Blane (lyrics). It was introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 movie Meet Me In St. Louis. In a Twitter conversation in November 2012, Tony Bennett said that “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is his favorite Christmas song.
About This Version
You’re correct: this is September, not December. It is not yet time for the Annual Twelve Days of a Tony Bennett Christmas celebration. Though I suspect it might be here sooner than many of us would care to think. I mean, we’re still have 80 degree days here in Portland.
A few weeks back, I thought it might be fun to start presenting songs in Tony’s career, starting in 1946 with “St. James Infirmary,” to pick one song from each year, up to today. I’ve been doing this five days a week, Monday through Friday. Saturdays and Sundays have their own themes as well: Saturday I present a song and a video and on Sundays I pick a song that Mr. Bennett has recorded more than once and present them together.
Today is 1968 and there is no album more important in Bennett’s career for that year than Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album. Critics have noted that Snowfall is not only an excellent Christmas album, but an excellent and outstanding album in its own right. It marked the first of Tony Bennett’s collaborations with the noted composer, conductor and orchestrator Robert Farnon.
And from that album is my favorite Christmas song of all time: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Like the composer, Hugh Martin, I too am from Birmingham, Alabama and, also like the composer, I studied at Birmingham-Southern College. By the time I started college in 1968, Hugh Martin was a legend at my college. When he was visiting Birmingham, he would visit the campus. I met him several times at the music department and would sometimes see him visiting other professors. (I will put a plug in for the Alabama Tony Bennett connection here: arranger Marion Evans, whose work as an arranger I feature often, is also from Alabama and also attended Birmingham-Southern. What can I say–they had and still have a fantastic music department.)
Tony Bennett recorded “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on October 1, 1968 in New York at the CBS 30th Street Studio. The album Snowfall was released soon afterwards. The album featured many of the same musicians that were used for his album of the previous year, Tony Makes It Happen!, including Milt Hinton, John Bunch and Joe Soldo.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is an outstanding song. In the same way that “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” transcends that city and speaks to everyone all over the world, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is as much or more about home and family as it is the holiday. Whether it’s Tony Bennett singing it or Judy Garland, you won’t find a better song or a better performance anywhere.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” as well as Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album, is available from iTunes.