Everywhere you go during the month of December, holiday music plays in the background. These catchy tunes provide the backdrop and memories that go with family, fun and festive spirits. Did you know many of the best loved Christmas songs were written and performed by someone memorialized at Woodlawn?
“White Christmas“ – Irving Berlin wrote this classic song in 1940. According to Guinness World Records, the recording made by crooner Bing Crosby is the “best selling single of all time,” with over 50 million copies sold. The song was first heard on the radio on Christmas Day in 1941, becoming an important sentimental tune for families and soldiers during the Second World War. Berlin won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1942 for the version of the song featured in the movie Holiday Inn. Hundred of performers have recorded “White Christmas” including: Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Elvis Presley, Bette Midler, Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton, and Lady GaGa.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” – Johnny Marks transformed the poem about Rudolph into a popular holiday song. The tale about a reindeer with a nose that could guide a sleigh was adapted for television. Marks wrote all the memorable songs that fill the forty two-year old movie special including: “Silver and Gold”, “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” and “We’re a Couple of Misfits”.
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – In 1958, Brenda Lee recorded the popular version of this song written by Johnny Marks. This swinging song is the 4th most downloaded holiday tune and has been featured in many television shows and movies including the family favorite Home Alone. Dion DiMucci, Toby Keith, Hannah Montana, and Green Day have all recorded this tune.
“March of the Toys” – Every year as a part of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the world-famous Rockettes appear wearing crisp white pants, bright red shirts, and tall plumed hats. The audience marvels as the line of toy soldiers tips and leans with the sounds of Victor Herbert’s light opera playing in the background. Herbert’s Babes in Toyland was first performed in 1903 at the Chicago Grand Opera House. Music from the popular production included the classic “Toyland“. In 1934 Laurel and Hardy starred in a film version of the production and Walt Disney produced an adaption with Ed Wynn and Annette Funicello.
Handel’s Messiah – Leopold Damrosch, founder of the Oratorio Society of New York and conductor of what became the New York Philharmonic, established the tradition of hosting an annual performance of the Messiah in 1874 at Carnegie Hall. Over the years, the tradition has grown to where multiple performances take place all over the city, including a week of concerts at David Geffen Hall and Trinity Church where one of the earliest performances in North America took place in 1770. Annually there is a sing-along performance in New York City where the audience gets to raise their voices when they hear the memorable “Hallelujah Chorus”.
The Woodlawn Cemetery is proud to honor these artists whose spirit lives on through the holiday traditions enjoyed by millions of Americans each and every year.
Happy holidays from The Woodlawn Cemetery!