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Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Greatest Selling Record Of All Time

White Christmas cover image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog What's the best selling record of all time? No, it's not Thriller by Michael Jackson (reported numbers are said to be inflated so it's difficult to even tell how many copies it's sold). It's actually "White Christmas," recorded by Bing Crosby and written by songwriting legend Irving Berlin. The single is said to have sold over 50 million copies alone, with sales of the album putting the total over 100 million.

Recorded in 1942 just after the World War II started for the US and debuted in the movie "Holiday Inn" with Crosby and Fred Astaire, it's widely held that the war actually had a lot to do with the song gaining popularity. Since millions of troops were overseas and longing for family, the song brought a little bit of comfort and the feel of home. From that point, it's become ingrained in our consciousness as a standard that's played constantly (over and over and over again) throughout the holiday season.

There's a lot that's interesting about songwriter Irving Berlin, as well. He was self-taught and could only play using the black keys of F#. Probably because he was self-taught, he also frequently wrote with unusual cadences, and many times never bothered to write a bridge, which was contrary to the times. Still, the song has outlived hundreds of competitors over time with more introduced every year. Despite all the famous songs that Berlin wrote that everyone somehow knows, ("Alexander's Ragtime Band,""Easter Parade," "There's No Business Like Show Business," "God Bless America."), "White Christmas" will be the one he's best remembered for.

So if you really want to make your mark as a songwriter, write a holiday song.

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Anonymous said...

White Christmas was recorded nearly three years into the Second World War, which was declared on 3rd September 1939.

Just because the US wasn't involved until later doesn't mean that that was when the war started.

Jef Knight said...

My wife and I have a lovely letter from Irving Berlin framed on our wall. It is a letter of thanks from Irving to Harry Sohmer, my wife's dad, thanking him for creating the lever action, key changing pianos he used.
The piano had 3 levers allowing Berlin to continue to play in F# while transposing the piano into other, more useful, keys.



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