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White Christmas: The Story of an American Song
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White Christmas: The Story of an American Song

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  54 ratings  ·  11 reviews
When Irving Berlin first conceived the song "White Christmas," he envisioned it as a "throwaway" -- a satirical novelty number for a vaudeville-style stage revue. By the time Bing Crosby introduced the tune in the winter of 1942, it had evolved into something far grander: the stately yuletide ballad that would become the world's all-time top-selling and most widely recorde...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published July 27th 2007 by Scribner (first published September 30th 2003)
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I picked up this book on a whim many years ago and read it straight through--twice. It's a great book! I can't even estimate how many times I've paraphrased this book-not just at the holidays-and shared fun trivia and profound history with friends and family. The story of this one song goes back to how the recording business grew out of the sheet-music business, what the heck is a Tin Pan Alley and how it still shapes what the music business is, and why all the good Christmas songs are written b...more
Music journalist, Jody Rosen, does a great job of presenting the story of the world's most popular song--White Christmas. (Although momentarily deposed as the biggest selling song of all time by Elton John's Goodbye England's Rose, the seasonal recurrance of White Christmas still makes it the world's most popular song.)

He gives us the history of the song's composer, Irving Berlin, and the things leading up to the song, and even Berlin's composing style and habits. (Berlin was a famous insomniac...more
Brad Lucht
Somewhat interesting story of the song. I enjoyed learning more of Berlin's history that about the song itself. Here are a few highlights:

Berlin wrote thousands of songs, publishing 812; 451 became hits.

Berlin wrote "God Bless America" as a peace song on an ocean liner as he returned to New York from London in 1938. Most of the melody came from a piece he wrote for a WWI musical in 1917. Of all the tunes that he wrote, "God Bless America" was Berlin's favorite song. He donated all proceeds to th...more
It makes sense that one of the most anti-family countries in the world would make this fantasy of hearth and home the most popular song of the 20th century. The chapter on the song as "war tonic" is especially good. (WW 1 songs were about fighting wars, WW 11 songs became reflections of the home they were fighting to save.) Rosen tells one story about a sergeant who wouldn't let his troops hum it in the foxholes because they might be all choked up with sentiment and thus softened up for Jerry.

While the song "White Christmas" certainly winds its way through the whole book, it is the framework on which a sparse biography of Berlin and a history of popular music in the first half of the 20th century are hung. Limiting my reading to the holiday season appropriate to the title, it took me three years to get through (and I started from scratch this year). Still, I enjoyed it more than I expected, learning some interesting trivia about the man and the period.
Actually, I've read this book a couple times, the first time shortly after its publication. I find it a fascinating analysis of one of my favorite songs. I particularly enjoy the biographical background on Irving Berlin, and the bits about Bing Crosby, and how Berlin's song gained phenomomial popularity during WWII.
I found this book really interested - naturally because of my love of Xmas music. What I most enjoyed though was the discussion of the evolution of music through the 20s, 30s, and 40s. Music lovers would also appreciate the discussion of this song in particular for its unusual musical arrangement.
Christian Schultz
Rosen does a beautiful job telling the story of popular music in the earlier part of the 20th Century by way of Irving Berlin's career, and with particular focus on "White Christmas." If that doesn't sound interesting to you, it probably still would be. Rosen is an incredible writer.
Paul Valente
A discussion of the roots and impact of the song 'White Christmas', scholarly, interesting, and beautifully written, a great book.
Fascinating discussion of why the song has remained so popular over the years.
Shawn Thrasher
A good, quick read.
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