When the ‘Chairman of the Board’ asks you for something, you don’t say no. At least, that’s what writer Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne soon found out when Frank Sinatra came to them and said he wanted an original Christmas song. It was 1954 and Frank was about to record a new version of ‘White Christmas’ and wanted an original song for the B-side. Cahn was initially reluctant, skeptical of trying to make anything new so soon after the hugely successful (and to this day still the most recorded Christmas song ever) Irving Berlin song ‘White Christmas’. But Cahn and Styne met in Styne’s apartment, began working, and when Cahn realized there had never been an original Christmas waltz, immediately began working on the lyrics of what would eventually become ‘The Christmas Waltz’.
‘The Christmas Waltz’ is definitely one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs, and not just because of its beautiful melody and picturesque, scenic lyrics. During the fall semester of my sophomore year of college, Beautiful and I took a dance class together. As part of our ‘final’ we had to pick a style of dance we had learned, find a song, and arrange a dance on our own. We picked the waltz, as it was the most elegant and romantic to us, and since our final was in December, we picked ‘The Christmas Waltz’ as our song. I remember us gliding across the floor in our classroom, our classmates and professor in a circle around us, but all we could focus on was each other. I wore a bright red Santa cap, and she looked so adorable with her reindeer antler headband.
Frank Sinatra would record ‘The Christmas Waltz’ as a B-side in 1954, in 1957 for his album ‘A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra’, and again in 1968 for ‘The Sinatra Family Wish You a Merry Christmas’. Since then it’s been covered by Christmas song legends like Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, and Tony Bennett. You’ll most likely hear the Carpenters’ version of it on the radio this time of year, though Harry Connick Jr’s was the most popular, appearing on the Adult Contemporary Billboard Top 100 for two weeks, and Cahn even wrote a whole new set of additional lyrics when Mel Tormé recorded his version in 1992. Personally my music taste compass has been pointing more towards low and slow recently, so this version by She & Him is my current favorite. Simple and clean and with the right partner, I imagine just as beautiful to dance to.