Rich's Reviews > White Christmas: The Story of an American Song

White Christmas by Jody Rosen
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's review
Jun 15, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: christmas, culture, history, music

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 who did much of his composing in the wee hours of the morning.) The Berlin family gave Rosen unprecedented access to many of the composer's private papers, including journals and letters.

Rosen also clears up a story that has been going around for years, saying that Berlin had little faith in the song. The fact is that when Berlin--who couldn't read music--was ready to play it for his musical secretary, and have it put to paper, he showed up at the office at ten a.m. instead of his usual 2 p.m. or 3 p.m., and announced to the staff, "Not only have I written the best song I've ever written, but I've just written the best song ever written." Berlin's worries about the song were when film critics ignored the song when it appeared in the film Holiday Inn, with Bing Crosby. But the public came to his rescue and turned it into a bona-fide hit.

A thoroughly researched, excellent book about a song that has been sung by everyone from the death metal band Helloween, to the Mormon Tabernacle choir.

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