12 Days of Christmas: Nat King Cole's The Christmas Song

By Nikki Pierce 2007-12-14 01:41:48
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song


Written in 1944 by vocalist Mel Tormé and Bob Wells, “The Christmas Song” has become one of the best recognized… well, Christmas songs. According to Tormé , the song was written during a blistering hot summer. In an effort to “stay cool by thinking cool,” one of the most-performed Christmas songs was born.

“I saw a spiral pad on his piano with four lines written in pencil,” Tormé recalled. “They started, ‘Chestnuts roasting ... Jack Frost nipping ... Yuletide carols ... Folks dressed up like Eskimos.’ Bob (Wells, co-writer) didn't think he was writing a song lyric. He said he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off. Forty minutes later that song was written. I wrote all the music and some of the lyrics.”

The Nat King Cole Trio first recorded the song in early 1946. At Cole’s request—and against the wishes of his label, Capitol Records—a second recording was made the same year which included a small string section. This version became a huge hit on both the pop and R&B charts. Cole re-recorded the song in 1953 and again in 1961, using the same arrangement with a full orchestra. The latter recording is generally regarded as the classic version and continues to achieve significant radio airplay every holiday season, while Cole’s original 1946 recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1974.

Cole’s version of the song straight up warms my heart. It captures the essence of the holiday season not through the endearing lyrics of common Christmas scenes, but because of Cole’s smooth crooning. I find it like a Christmas lullabye that makes me want to snuggle up with a cup of hot cocoa on a couch in front of a fireplace charmingly adorned with humble red stockings. I can’t help but smile and sigh with warm satisfaction as I hear Nat King Cole enchantingly sing “The Christmas Song.” To see him perform the carol, click here, grab some hot chocolate and prepare for your heart to melt.

Read all of Cinema Blend's 12 Days of Christmas features in other sections by clicking here.
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