Our Top 12: The Jews Behind the Christmas Songs
12. The Christmas Song
Written by Mel Torme and Bob Wells.
Mel Torme was born to Russian Jewish parents. Bob Wells was born Robert Levinson.
The two were a well known songwriting partnership.
This song was born in Toluca Lake, CA on a hot July day, When Torme arrived at Wells’ house, he found a spiral note pad of paper with some words on it “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, Yuletide Carols being sung by a choir, folks dressed up like Eskimos.”
Wells had wanted to write a song for a completely different season “to cool off.” Torme recognized the potential in the lyric, and the rest of the song was written in 35 minutes.
11. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
Written by Albert Hague
Hague was born as Albert Marcuse to a Jewish family in Berlin, Germany who considered their Jewish heritage a liability, and raised him as a Lutheran. This was written and recorded for the 1966 Dr. Seuss TV Holiday Special How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Seuss wrote the lyrics and Albert Hague wrote the music.
10. Holly Jolly Christmas
Written by Johnny Marks
Though he was a Jew, Marks was also one of the most famous Christmas songwriters of all time. He appears on our list no less than THREE Times.
He was brought in for this project after impressing executives with the success of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
9. I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
Written by Irving Berlin
Born Israel Isidore Beilin, Berlin was an American composer and lyricist of Belarusian-Jewish origin. This song was one of the numbers from the 1937 film musical On The Avenue, to which Berlin contributed the majority of the music.
8. Winter Wonderland
Written by Felix Bernard
Born Felix William Bernhardt to a Jewish family in New York City, Bernard was known for his great compositions.
This became one of the most popular holiday songs of all time.
7. Let It Snow!
Written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn
Born in London as Julius Kerwin Stein to Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine, Styne was a famous American songwriter.
Cahn was born Samuel Cohen in NYC and became obsessed with music shortly after his bar mitzvah.
Although this song is associated with Christmas, there is zero mention of the holiday in the lyrics.
6. Silver Bells
Written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
Livingston was born Jacob Harold Levison in Pennsylvania. Evans, also a Jew, stepped away from all organized religion, including his religious heritage, later in life.
This famous duo is also behind the classic standards and Academy Award winning numbers, “Buttons and Bows” and “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).”
5. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Written by Johnny Marks
Marks’ second appearance on our list! Let’s start with the fact that Rudolph was originally named Rollo, or Reginald! The story of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer was created in 1939 by Robert L. May, a copywriter for the Chicago-based Montgomery Ward department stores, as a promotional gift for customers. The stores had bought and distributed coloring books every Christmas and saw writing their own story as a way to save money. Marks was May’s brother in law, and after developing the lyrics and melody for it, the song was first released in 1949, selling an astonishing 2 million copies that year.
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