Today’s song was initially issued as a single in 1963, but unfortunately it was on the same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. This seriously dampened the holiday mood and the single was withdrawn.
The song lay dormant throughout the '60s and '70s, but in the '80s, covers and uses in movies and commercials helped introduce the song to a new audience, and radio stations started adding it to their holiday playlists. It eventually became a Christmas classic, but it took decades.
Today’s singer says the producers worked everybody so hard on the album and the days kind of blurred into each other. But there was a real Christmas party atmosphere in the studio, even though it was the height of summer, and a lot of great musicians were involved.
They weren't that well-known at the time but so many of them went on to become famous in their own right, like Leon Russell. Sonny Bono and Cher were involved, [as was] Glen Campbell. She says they all worked hard and some days would be in the studio for eight or nine hours just doing one verse of one song.
Today’s singer had been around for decades, but came to the attention of talk show host David Letterman when he saw her in the Broadway musical Leader of the Pack. In 1986, he had her perform this song on his show, and every year would invite her back to sing it on his Christmas show.
Letterman was never a fan of Christmas songs but he loved soul music and was happy to have her bring this particular brand of holiday cheer.
Some of the artists to cover this song include Jon Bon Jovi, Death Cab for Cutie, Mariah Carey and Smash Mouth. Cher, as we told you, sang backup on the original, and also did her own version. The most popular cover, however, was recorded by U2 for the 1987 Special Olympics benefit album A Very Special Christmas.
But today’s version is the standard and even though she is known far and wide for this song, she never gets tired of it because she only sings this around Christmas, because she wants to keep it special.
Since the song didn't catch on until decades after it was recorded, she never got sick of singing it. She says there is a reason for that, "I haven't been doing this song since 1964. I didn't start singing it until the '80s."
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