Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

_____________________________________

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane) – 1944

Adapted from the Wikipedia article on the song, with cited quotes from Bhamwiki and Entertainment Weekly articles incorporated:

The song was introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 MGM musical Meet Me In St. Louis. Frank Sinatra’s later version with modified lyrics has become more common than the original. The song was credited to Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, although during a December 21, 2006 NPR interview, Martin said that Blane had encouraged him to write the song but had not had anything more to do with writing it.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas was written while Martin was vacationing in a home Birmingham, Alabama which his father, Hugh Martin senior, had designed and built for his mother as a honeymoon cottage, known as Hugh Martin Cottage. The house was located in the community of Southside across the street from Hugh’s mother and right beside her aunt.

The Bhamwiki article on Hugh Martin says:

Martin senior built the cottage for his wife’s honeymoon. Because her aunt and mother lived in the area, after the honeymoon she refused to move across the mountain to a lovely new house that Martin had built for her so she ended up staying in Southside and raising her children in the honeymoon cottage. The Hugh Martin Cottage is now an Historic Landmark in the city.]

The song first appeared in a scene in Meet Me in St. Louis, in which a family is distraught by the father’s plans to move to New York City for a job promotion, leaving behind their beloved home in St. Louis, Missouri just before the long-anticipated Louisiana Purchase Exposition begins. In a scene set on Christmas Eve, Judy Garland’s character, Esther, sings the song to cheer up her despondent five-year-old sister, Tootie, played by Margaret O’Brien.[3] The sentimental setting of the tune in the finished scene owes much to the understated orchestration by Conrad Salinger and musical direction of Georgie Stoll.

However, when presented with the original draft, Garland, her co-star Tom Drake and director Vincent Minnelli criticized the song as depressing:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last
Next year we may all be living in the past
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Pop that champagne cork
Next year we may all be living in New York

No good times like the olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us no more

But at least we all will be together
If the Lord allows
From now on, we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

Though he initially resisted, songwriter Hugh Martin made several changes to make the song more upbeat. For example, the lines “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”.[4] Garland’s version of the song, which was also released as a single by Decca Records, became popular among United States troops serving in World War II; her performance at the Hollywood Canteen brought many soldiers to tears.[5]

_____________________

In an article for Entertainment Weekly titled There’s Something About Merry (8 January 2007) writer Chris Willman, noting that “the song’s fascinatingly tangled history has left it with several very different sets of lyrics, from the near-suicidal to the downright ebullient,” tells about Hugh Martin’s initial reluctance to alter his original lines, with quotes from Martin and Margaret O’Brien:

For the now-famous scene in which Garland and her little sister, a 7-year-old Margaret O’Brien, are despondent over the prospect of moving away from their cherished home, he wrote an initial set of lyrics that were almost comically depressing. Among the never-recorded couplets — which he now describes as ”hysterically lugubrious” — were lines like: ”Have yourself a merry little Christmas/It may be your last…. Faithful friends who were dear to us/Will be near to us no more.”

“I often wondered what would it have been like if those lyrics had been sung in the movie,” laughs O’Brien, now 69. “But about a week before we were to shoot the scene where Judy sings it to me, she looked at the lyrics and said, ‘Don’t you think these are awfully dark? I’m going to go to Hugh Martin and see if he can lighten it up a little.'”

As Martin tells it, he initially balked at changing the words. “They said, ‘It’s so dreadfully sad.’ I said, ‘I thought the girls were supposed to be sad in that scene.’ They said, ‘Well, not that sad.’ And Judy was saying, ‘If I sing that to that sweet little Margaret O’Brien, they’ll think I’m a monster!’ And she was quite right, but it took me a long time to get over my pride. Finally, Tom Drake [the young male lead], who was a friend, convinced me. He said, ‘You stupid son of a b—-! You’re gonna foul up your life if you don’t write another verse of that song!'”

Martin finally gave in, coming up with a new, somewhat less downbeat lyric. As sung in the movie, “Merry Little Christmas” is a buck-up ballad that imagines the possibility of a bright future but finally admits, in the song’s most powerful line, that “until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.”

____________________

In 1957, Frank Sinatra asked Martin to revise this line. He said to Martin, “The name of my album is A Jolly Christmas. Do you think you could jolly up that line for me?”[4] Martin’s new line, “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough,” has since become more widely recognized and sung than the original phrase.

Although the 1957 rewrite is the most familiar to listeners today, some artists, such as James Taylor, have issued more recent recordings with the original lyrics of the Judy Garland version.[4]

The version sung by Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yule-tide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away

Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us once more

Someday soon, we all will be together
If the Fates allow
Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

____________________________

.

From The Judy Garland Show, Episode 15: “The Christmas Show“, taped 6 December 1963, with Lorna Luft and Joey Luft

.

Connie Francis — from her LP Christmas in My Heart, recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London in August 1959, and released in November of that year

Francis sings the original “we’ll have to muddle through somehow” lyric.

.

Andy Williams – from the 1965 LP Merry Christmas

.

Lena Horne — the penultimate track on her album Merry from Lena, released November 1966

.

Barbra Streisand — recorded in October 1967, and issued on the 1967 LP Barbra Streisand – A Christmas Album, Columbia CS 9557

.

The Carpenters – from their 1978 album Christmas Portrait

.

snow-scene-animated-1

_________________

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

free
web stats

  • 2,372,972 views