Music

Burl Ives Taught Us Christmas Song 'Silver and Gold' as a Singing Snowman

Strumming his guitar and singing his songs, ballad singer Burl Ives entertains guests at the English garden party given by John F.C. Bryce, and his American wife, the former Josephine Hartford, on their Moyns Park estate at Steeple Bumpstead, England, July 10, 1959. The party was given for the Americans and their families stationed at the nearby Air Force base at Wethersfield. (AP Photo)

Rankin Bass' holiday special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has aired at least once every December since those familiar puppets of Rudolph, Santa, Yukon Cornelius and a singing snowman debuted in 1964.

The snowman master of ceremonies was voiced by Burl Ives, a folk storyteller and winner of one of the earliest country music Grammy awards (Best Country & Western Recording for "Funny Way Of Laughin'," 1962). In one of the special's more memorable moments, Ives' banjo-picking snowman introduces viewers young and old to "Silver and Gold," a gorgeous tune that references the Biblical Three Wise Men.

Johnny Marks, the New York-based songwriter behind some of the most-loved Christmas songs of the past 100 years, penned the Ives classic. Marks also wrote "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" (an important piece of this story and the career of Gene Autry) plus Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," Ives standard "A Holly Jolly Christmas," Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run" and "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," one of many holiday tunes popularized by Bing Crosby.

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"Silver and Gold" became a popular song title in the coming years, with completely different tunes recorded over the years by Dolly Parton, Neil Young, U2 (for the Sun City album of apartheid protest songs) and T-Pain.

Covers of  Marks' song are scarce. Country singers avoid it for whatever reason, but there's at least one Southern gospel revision by The Perrys.

"Silver and Gold" Song Lyrics

Silver and gold
Silver and gold
Silver and gold
Ev'ryone wishes
For silver and gold
How do you measure
It's worth?
Just by the pleasure it
Gives here on Earth
Silver and gold
Silver and gold
Mean so much more
When I see
Silver
And gold decorations
On ev'ry Christmas tree
Silver, silver and gold
Silver, silver and gold
Silver and gold

Silver and gold
Silver and gold
Wise men brought gifts
To the manger I'm told
Mary was humble to see
Shepherds and kings
There on bended knees
It's silver and gold
Silver and gold
Feeling the world
With their lives
Silver and gold
How they shimmer
On ev'ry Christmas night
On ev'ry Christmas night

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Burl Ives Taught Us Christmas Song 'Silver and Gold' as a Singing Snowman