From now on (and on Music Monday), our troubles will be out of sight…
With nine days and counting until Christmas Day, how about another Christmas song for our holiday playlist?
A song meant to comfort a young girl in the wake of moving from St. Louis to New York City is the subject of today’s Music Monday, even though the song wasn’t actually inspired by that purpose.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a 1943 song written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane for the film Meet Me in St. Louis. Originally sung by Judy Garland to her character’s distraught little sister, the song underwent a few changes before filming began, due to the depressing nature of its original lyrics (“It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past” became “Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight”).
Wow, that really is depressing!
The song became popular in its original release by Garland, reaching #27 on the Billboard Charts, and has been covered by other artists, including Frank Sinatra (twice, in 1950 and 1963), Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, The Pretenders, James Taylor, Luther Vandross, and Michael Buble. I’m pretty sure this is not an exhaustive list of covers.
While I know Garland’s version and have heard it many times, the first time I ever heard “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” was Frank Sinatra’s cover during the arrest scene in Home Alone. In fact, Sinatra’s third recording of the song used with controversy by director Carl Foreman in the film The Victors, an anti-war film, as the background score to the scene in which a G.I. deserter was executed by firing squad in a snowy field on Christmas Eve. I just watched it, and it is super depressing. The scene was based on the real-life execution of Pvt. Eddie Slovik in 1945, and is just…wow. It’s unbelievably depressing. I’m actually surprised the original lyrics weren’t included in this, it’s just that hard to watch.
Anyway, the version I’m using today is Frank Sinatra’s version from A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra. It’s the version I’m most familiar with (aside from Garland and Buble’s versions), and makes me feel good, despite now knowing the original lyrics AND the controversial use of this song in a movie. Sinatra even got what he wanted – a further revision by Martin to make the song “more jolly.” In turn, the lyric “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough” replaced “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow,” and Martin changed the tense from future to present, in order to celebrate present happiness, rather than anticipation for a better future. Sinatra did record the original lyric in 1948.
This recording is of the changed version.
Judy Garland sang this song for soldiers, bringing many of them to tears. On her Christmas special (part of The Judy Garland Show) on December 6, 1963, Garland sang this to her children, Lorna and Joey Luft with Sinatra’s alternative lyrics. To me, her version is just as beautiful either way, and thankfully, not depressing.
As for that featured image, here’s the scene from Meet Me In St. Louis featuring Garland cheering up Margaret O’Brien. Thankfully, it isn’t the depressing version.
Thank goodness for objecting to the original version, this is truly a Christmas classic.
As I said, nine days and counting until Christmas, and the articles keep on coming!
Have a great Monday, and enjoy the music!