Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
|"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"|
|Song by Judy Garland in the 1944 musical Meet Me in St. Louis|
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", a song written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, was introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 MGM musical Meet Me in St. Louis. Frank Sinatra later recorded a version with modified lyrics. In 2007, ASCAP ranked "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" the third most performed Christmas song during the preceding five years that had been written by ASCAP members. In 2004 it finished at No. 76 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs rankings of the top tunes in American cinema.
Meet Me in St. Louis
The song was written while Martin was vacationing in a flat in the neighborhood of Southside in Birmingham, Alabama, that his father Hugh Martin designed for his mother as a honeymoon cottage. Located at 1919 South 15th Avenue (just down the street from his birthplace at 1900 South 14th Avenue), the house became the home of Martin and his family in 1923. The song first appeared in a scene in Meet Me in St. Louis, in which a family is distraught by the father's plans to move to New York City for a job promotion, leaving behind their beloved home in St. Louis, Missouri, just before the long-anticipated 1904 World's Fair begins. In a scene set on Christmas Eve, Judy Garland's character, Esther, sings the song to cheer up her despondent five-year-old sister, Tootie, played by Margaret O'Brien.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last
Next year we may all be living in the past
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Pop that champagne cork
Next year we may all be living in New York
No good times like the olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us no more
But at least we all will be together
If the Lord allows
From now on, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now
When presented with the original draft lyric, Garland, her co-star Tom Drake and director Vincente Minnelli criticized the song as depressing, and asked Martin to change the lyrics. Though he initially resisted, Martin made several changes to make the song more upbeat. For example, the lines "It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past" became "Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight". Garland's version of the song, which was also released as a single by Decca Records, became popular among United States troops serving in World War II; her performance at the Hollywood Canteen brought many soldiers to tears.
In 1957, Frank Sinatra asked Martin to revise the line "Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow." He told Martin, "The name of my album is A Jolly Christmas. Do you think you could jolly up that line for me?" Martin's new line was "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough." Martin made several other alterations, changing the song's focus to a celebration of present happiness, rather than anticipation of a better future. On The Judy Garland Show Christmas Special, Garland sings the song to her children Joey and Lorna Luft with Sinatra's alternate lyrics.
The lyrics Garland sang in Meet Me in St. Louis have been recorded with only slight variations by a number of artists, including Sinatra (in 1950 and 1963 single recordings), Bing Crosby (in I Wish You a Merry Christmas), Doris Day (in The Doris Day Christmas Album), Ella Fitzgerald (in Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas), The Pretenders (in the first A Very Special Christmas compilation), James Taylor (in October Road), and Luther Vandross (in This Is Christmas).
In 2001, Martin, occasionally active as a pianist with religious ministries since the 1980s, wrote an entirely new set of lyrics to the song with John Fricke, "Have Yourself a Blessed Little Christmas," a religious version of the secular Christmas standard. The song was recorded by gospel female vocalist Del Delker with Martin accompanying her on piano.
In 2002, NewSong lead singer Michael O'Brien noted the line "through the years, we all will be together if the Lord allows," which was part of the original song, was purged and replaced with "if the fates allow" to remove religious reference when the song was released. He noted while a pastor in a California church in 1990 that he had met Martin, who played piano at the church where O'Brien was serving for an evening, and the pastor was told, "That's the original way I wrote it, so I want you to sing it this way."
Songwriting collaboration controversy
Although Ralph Blane is credited with writing the music for many of Martin's songs, Martin claimed in his autobiography that he wrote both music and lyrics to all of the songs in Meet Me in St. Louis and that "all of the so-called Martin and Blane songs, (except for Best Foot Forward), were written entirely by me (solo) without help from Ralph or anybody else." His explanation for allowing Blane equal credit for the songs was: "I was reasonably content to let him receive equal screen credit, sheet music credit, ASCAP royalties, etc., mainly because this bizarre situation was caused by my naive and atrocious lack of business acumen."
Frank Sinatra's third recording of the song, backed by popular Hollywood arranger Gus Levene and his orchestra, was controversially used by director Carl Foreman in his 1963 anti-war film The Victors as the soundtrack backdrop (along with the carol "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing") to the execution by firing squad of a G.I. deserter in a bleak, snowy field on Christmas Eve – a scene inspired by the real-life execution of Pvt. Eddie Slovik in 1945. The New York Times film reviewer, while recognising the power of the scene, complained that "the device itself is almost as specious and sentimental as what [Foreman] is trying to mock".
Sam Smith version
|"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"|
|Single by Sam Smith|
|Released||December 6, 2014|
|Sam Smith singles chronology|
On December 6, 2014, English singer Sam Smith released a cover version on the song. The song debuted at number 90 on the Billboard Hot 100, the first time a version of the song has charted on the Hot 100. In Australia, the song charted at number 63, the second time a version of the song has charted, after Michael Bublé's version reached number 98 in 2011.
- "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" – 2:50
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||69|
|Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)||53|
|Canada (Canadian Hot 100)||66|
|Canada AC (Billboard)||8|
|Canada Hot AC (Billboard)||49|
|Czech Republic (Singles Digitál Top 100)||96|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||62|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||33|
|Scotland (Official Charts Company)||57|
|Slovakia (Singles Digitál Top 100)||68|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||74|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||65|
|US Billboard Hot 100||90|
|US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)||6|
|US Holiday 100 (Billboard)||9|
Judy Garland version
Judy Garland's 1944 version reached No. 27 in Billboard charts.
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- Entertainment Weekly article – with the history of the song's lyrics, including three different versions