The Holiday Music Fest
This doesn't qualify as a unknown holiday song, though it's a cousin. Consider it a reasonably-known holiday song that isn't known as being by its well-known holiday composer.
This is what I mean.
It's well-known that Johnny Marks wrote the wildly-fmous song "Rudolph the Red-Rednosed Reindeer," which was of course used as the basis for the holiday classic TV special. And for that special, he also wrote what become another big Christmas hit song, "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas." Now, having written two major Christmas songs that are traditional favorites is highly impressive. But -- did you know that before the TV special he had actually written what is now 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. And the opening credits read "Music and Lyrics by Johnny Marks." This one didn't qualify. The lyrics though weren't by a fellow-collaborator, but rather adapted from a 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's the one 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 Longfellow...!!)
For that matter, having said that the song is not in the TV special, I should toss in a little twist and clarify things by noting that, actually, 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' 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 standards by Johnny Marks. Not shabby.
But for fun, and as proof that I'm not lying about this -- here's the opening of the "Rudolph" TV special and if you listen closely to the underscoring, you will hear "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." It comes in at at the 3:21 mark. (Or perhaps that should be "Marks.") And continues for about half a minute. The special doesn't start until 2:23. Needless-to-say, feel free to jump forward... (For TV history buffs, you might enjoy the video that precedes the show, since this appears recorded off the air and includes the promos of the time.)
You probably didn't know the song was there. But now, when you watch the special next year -- you will.
Leave a Reply.
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