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I’m Dreaming, or Do I Need a Shovel?

This time of year makes us nostalgic. We prepare our Thanksgiving Day dinner while high school bands march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We root for an angel to lift James Stewart out of despair in It’s a Wonderful Life. We listen to “White Christmas” again and again and again.

Photo by: Williumbillium

Photo by: Williumbillium

Bing Crosby first sang the Irving Berlin song on his radio show in 1941 and then in the 1942 musical Holiday Inn for which it was written. It topped the charts that October and stayed there for eleven weeks. Over the years its estimated sales are over fifty million copies worldwide.

The over five hundred versions of the song since recorded by various artists around the world account for another fifty million plus copies sold. Before the decade was out Frank Sinatra, Kay Thompson, Jo Stafford, and Perry Como gave the song their own special spin.

In the fifties the Drifters, Eddie Fisher, Johnny Mathis, Dean Martin, and Ella Fitzgerald chimed in. Both Frank Sinatra and Perry Como again recorded the song, but not together. Elvis put the song on his first holiday album in 1957.

There are instrumental versions by Mantovani and His Orchestra (1952) and Kenny G (1994), as well as sing alongs. In 1961 on the cover to his holiday album, Mitch Miller didn’t print the song’s lyrics, but rather this disclaimer: “The publisher assumes everyone knows the lyrics to this song!”

The song knows no genre. Neil Diamond (1992) recorded a doo-wop version. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (1984) harmonized on Once Upon a Christmas. Country and Western singers, Garth Brooks (1992), Martina McBride (1998), Taylor Swift (2007), Blake Shelton (2012), and Kelly Clarkson (2013) among others, have made it part of their holiday repertoire. So, too, did Motown with The Supremes (1965), boy bands, including New Kids on the Block (1989), and female performers from Barbra Streisand (1967) to Diane Krall (2005). Lady Gaga added a verse when she recorded it for A Very Gaga Holiday (2011), which goes like this:

I’m dreaming of a white Snowman

With the carrot nose and charcoal eyes.

And, oh when he cries, I’m gonna tell him

It’s okay,

Because Santa’s on his sleigh and on his way.

 

Conversely, most recordings drop Berlin’s opening verse:

The sun is shining,

The grass is green,

The orange and palm trees sway.

There’s never been such a day

In Beverly Hills, L.A.

 

Both California’s La Quinta Hotel and the Arizona Biltmore claim Berlin wrote his popular song while at their resort.  Without dispute, however,  only someone sitting poolside misses the snow and cold while the rest of us shovel our driveways so we can make it to Grandma’s for pudding and pumpkin pie.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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‘Tis the 75th Season: In Old Del Mar

This week it was off to the races at the Del Mar Racetrack, celebrating its 75thanniversary.

Bing Crosby sings. Photo by: Thomas Hawk

Bing Crosby, a horseracing enthusiast, convinced his Hollywood friends, like Pat O’Brien and Jimmy Durante, to raise money to build the venue.  He personally greeted the arriving guests when the Turf Club opened to the public in July 1937.  At a time when the sport was second only to popularity to major league baseball, the success of the venture was never in doubt.

It was somewhat of a surprise, however, when Crosby’s horse, High Strike, won the first race.  The fix wasn’t in, but it might have seemed that way.

This year opening-day attendance of 47,339 set a record, the eighth in a row.  They bet $14.1 million, compared to $13.2 million a year ago.

Jockey Chantal Sutherland on trainer Kristin Mulhall’s Miss California won the first race.   This was hardly surprising.  The petite, of course, blonde jockey with the model-good looks is closing in on 1,000 races and $45 million dollars in earnings.  In 2011 she was the first woman to win the Santa Anita Handicap, and she had won the Hollywood Gold Cup only a couple of weeks earlier.

But even the poster girl in the racetrack’s advertising campaign this season has her moments.  Just after the start of the seventh race she was – how to say this nicely – dumped by her mount Sir Hamilton.  She wasn’t hurt, except maybe for her pride, and she was given the okay to ride in the tenth race.

One of People magazine’s “Most Beautiful People” in 2006 she has a good sense of her chosen profession.  “This game is tough,” she declared after being thrown. “One minute you’re on top and winning, the next you’re gum at the bottom of someone’s shoe.”

Bing Crosby couldn’t have said it better, even if he put it to music.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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For anyone for whom Christmas can’t be here soon enough:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8swRkzkO2s&feature=related