This doesn't qualify as a unknown Christmas song, though it's a cousin.
It's well-known that Johnny Marks wrote the song "Rudolph the Red-Rednosed Reindeer," which was used as the basis for the holiday classic TV special. And for that musical, he also wrote what become another Christmas hit song, "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas." Now, having written two Christmas songs that are traditional favorites is highly impressive. But -- did you know that before the TV special he had actually written what is a third, popular Christmas song, as well?
This third song was not included in the Rudoplph TV special, I suspect, because he only wrote the music for it. The lyrics though weren't by a fellow-collaborator, but rather adapted from an old poem -- albeit by another fellow, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It had previously been set to music in the late 18th century (by English organist John Baptiste Calkin -- don't worry, it won't be on the test), but when Marks wrote his own music for the poem in the 1950s, that has now become the version most-heard today. The song is "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."
(Having said that most people don't know that the music is by Johnny Marks, I suspect that almost as many people don't know that the words are by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow...)
For that matter, having said that the song is not in the TV special, I should clarify by noting that it sort of is -- the music, at least. Near the very beginning of the show, as Sam the Snowman is introducing us to the tale, if you listen carefully you can hear Johnny Marks's music to "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" playing as underscoring.
But here's the full song. There are a lot of recordings, but since we're talking about "Rudolph," we might as well use the recording by Sam himself, Burl Ives.
Three popular Christmas songs by Johnny Marks. Not shabby.
And just to prove that I am not lying to you about the music being in the Rudolph TV special, here's that opening sequence. After some lead-in advertising, the show itself begins at 2:25. The music comes along at about the 3:20 mark, in case you want to jump all the way forward, and runs for around 25 seconds. It comes a bit after the well-known line that viewers will recognize, "What's the matter? Haven't you seen a talking snowman before?" (And it plays in the background while Sam the Snowman introduces you to the "Christmas seals.") I suspect that a lot of people who have watched this special for decades will hear the music and go, "Oooooooooohhh, yes! I remember hearing that!!"
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor