Music video by Nat King Cole performing The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire). King Cole Productions, LLC under license to Beach Road Music, LLC
“The Christmas Song”, commonly subtitled “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire“ or, as it was originally subtitled, “Merry Christmas to You”, is a classic Christmas song written in 1944 by vocalist Mel Tormé and Bob Wells. According to Tormé, the song was written during a blistering hot summer. In an effort to “stay cool by thinking cool,” the most-performed (according to BMI) Christmas song 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 early in 1946. At Cole’s behest — and over the objections of his label, Capitol Records — a second recording was made the same year utilizing a small string section, this version becoming a massive hit on both the pop and R&B charts. Cole re-recorded the song in 1953, using the same arrangement with a full orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, and once more in 1961, in a stereophonic version with orchestra conducted by Ralph Carmichael. The latter recording is generally regarded as definitive and continues to receive considerable radio airplay each holiday season, while Cole’s original 1946 recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1974. Mel Tormé recorded the song himself in 1954, and again in 1965 and 1992.
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