Music

'Blue Christmas': The Story Behind The Classic Holiday Song

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"Blue Christmas" is one of the all-time holiday classics each year during Christmas time. The heartbreaking song about unrequited love perfectly captures how lonely the season can be without the one you love, which is probably why it's been a staple for over 70 years. Though the beloved tune is now most frequently associated with Elvis Presley, it was originally recorded by Doye O'Dell in 1948.

According to Classic Country Music Stories, songwriter Jay W. Johnson first wrote the song on his commuter train from his home in Connecticut to New York City. He had been working writing jingles for the radio and was inspired by some of the other hit Christmas songs at the time like "White Christmas" which blew up thanks to Bing Crosby. He took his lyrics to his composer friend Billy Hayes and together they put the finishing touches on the song. But initially, no one was interested in recording the song when it was offered to various artists around Nashville.

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Country artist Ernest Tubb recorded the song after O'Dell and his version ended up hitting number one on the Billboard chart in January 1950. Throughout the '50s, Tubb helped popularize the song and generated interest among other country artists to cover the song. But when the King came around in 1957, he would put his own spin on "Blue Christmas" that would forever associate him with the holiday tune. What's interesting is he reportedly didn't even want to record it at the time.

According to backup singer Millie Kirkham, when they first entered the studio to record the song, Elvis said "Let's just get this over with." Kirkham added at an interview at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum that everyone in the recording, including backup singers The Jordanaires and guitarist Scotty Moore, felt the same way and didn't believe the studio would actually release the song. But the rock and roll version of the country Christmas song became a major hit on Elvis's first Christmas EP, Elvis Sings Christmas Songs, along with other classics -- "Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me)," "Santa Claus Is Back in Town," and "I'll Be Home for Christmas." It has since been covered by some of the greatest musical acts across all genres from The Beach Boys to Martina McBride.

"Blue Christmas" Lyrics

I'll have a blue Christmas without you
I'll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won't be the same dear, if you're not here with me
And when those blue snowflakes start falling
That's when those blue memories start calling
You'll be doin' all right, with your Christmas of white
But I'll have a blue, blue blue blue Christmas
You'll be doin' all right, with your Christmas of white,
But I'll have a blue, blue Christmas

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'Blue Christmas': The Story Behind The Classic Holiday Song