Burl Ives holds up the stop-motion snowman puppet of Sam, whose voice he provides in the TV Christmas special, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer".
Bettmann / Contributor

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

It's synonymous with "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

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 named Sam debuted in 1964. It's always a popular family Christmas movie to watch year after year, and for many, it has become somewhat of a tradition. It's the epitome of holiday nostalgia watching these puppets band together to save Christmas and watching Rudolph live up to his reputation as the reindeer who saved Christmas. Outside of the visuals and story itself, the "Silver and Gold" song is one of the most memorable parts.

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.

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Burl Ives

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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.

"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.

Editor's Note: This story previously ran on Nov. 26, 2020.

"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
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

READ MORE: All Stores Open on Christmas Day in 2023