What do "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer," "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)," "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!, "It's the Most Wonderful Time Of the Year," "Silver Bells," "Santa Baby," and "White Christmas" have in common? Yes, they're all Christmas songs. Yes, they are all classic Christmas songs. Yes, they made their songwriters a ton of cash. But did you know that these Christmas classics were all written by Jewish songwriters? These songwriters may not have celebrated Christmas, but they wrote some of the most beloved Christmas songs in history.
Unlike a pop song that has a life span of maybe three or four months before being shoved aside for something newer and shinier, Christmas songs keep coming back every year. Furthermore, Christmas songs are arguably the most covered type of song in the world. Every year, hundreds of popular artists from every musical genre around the world, line up to pay top dollar for the rights to cover a popular Christmas song.
"Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer"
This song was written by Johnny Marks. He based the song on a short story his brother-in-law Robert May wrote in 1939 for the department store Montgomery Ward. This is the song that gave birth to the idea of flying reindeer. It was a 1949 hit for Gene Autry. Marks wrote a number of other Christmas songs, including "A Holly Jolly Christmas," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "Run Rudolph Run," and "Silver and Gold."
"Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"
This song was written by Sammy Cahn (born Samuel Cohen on the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and Jule Styne. They wrote the song during a 1945 heatwave in Hollywood. Styne (born Julius Stein) wrote the music. Dean Martin made the song a hit.
"The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)"
Mel Torme, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, teams up with Robert Wells, who is also Jewish, to write this classic tune in 1945. The two were longtime collaborators. Like "Let It Snow!" this song was also written during a hot summer in Chicago to conjure up cold thoughts. Torme was just 19 when he wrote the song. It took him less than 45 minutes to write and has made him more than $45 million in the past 74 years. It has been covered by hundreds of artists including Michael Buble, Tony Bennett, Garth Brooks, Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, NSYNC and many more. Despite having written more than 250 songs during his career, "The Christmas Song" was by far Mel's biggest financial success. He often referred to it as "my annuity."
"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year"
Edward Pola, a Hungarian Jew born Sidney Edward Pollacsek, wrote this Christmas classic with George Wyle, born Bernard Weissman. It was a huge hit for Andy Williams in 1963. Given the fact that this song was written by two Jews and contains the lyric "scary ghost stories and the glories of the Christmases long, long ago," makes you think.
This song, written by Joan Javits and Philip Springer – both Jewish – was a huge hit for Eartha Kitt in 1953. The song about Santa's annual gift-giving spree offered a cheeky take on the materialism of the Christian holiday.
This song was written by Jay Livingston, aka Jacob Harold Levinson, and Ray Evans, the son of Philip and Frances Lipsitz Evans. Livingston contends that the song was inspired by sidewalk Santa Clauses and their bells. Evans said the song was inspired by a bell on an office desk. It was a high hit for Bing Crosby. Fun fact: the song was almost called "Tinkle Bells" until Livingston's wife told him that was slang for urination. Dean Martin made this song a hit.
Irving Berlin, a Jewish immigrant from Russia wrote this Christmas classic made most famous by Bing Crosby. Crosby's version is one of the bestselling songs in history with over 100 million copies worldwide. Berlin has earned approximately $65 million from the song which was named the bestselling single of all time by the Guinness Book of World Records.