ASCAP Unwraps the Top 30 Holiday Songs of the Century
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December 04, 2014

ASCAP Unwraps the Top 30 Holiday Songs of the Century

“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” tops list of all-time most-performed ASCAP holiday classics

ASCAP, Holiday

New York, NY, December 4, 2014 - It’s become an annual tradition: at the beginning of every holiday season, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) announces its list of the most-performed holiday songs of the year - the evergreen hits that accompany more family get-togethers and wintertime shopping trips than any others.

This year, ASCAP brings its 100th birthday celebration into the holiday season by unwrapping the top 30 ASCAP holiday songs of all time. Topping the list is “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” written by Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie.

ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams commented: “Music reminds us that the holidays are supposed to be about togetherness and good cheer. These 30 ASCAP classics perfectly capture those themes and for many are a bridge to wonderful memories of days gone by. The list is a testament to the enduring importance of great songs and songwriters. It’s also a reminder of the essential role that ASCAP and our members play in our lives, year after year. It simply wouldn’t be the holidays without ASCAP music.”

“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” became an unexpected hit for songwriters Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie when radio star Eddie Cantor was looking for a holiday song to sing on a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade radio broadcast in 1934. Though Cantor never recorded it commercially, George Hall and the Hotel Taft Orchestra's 1934 version, with a vocal by Sonny Schuyler, charted that same year. Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, Perry Como, the Four Seasons, Luis Miguel and Bruce Springsteen have recorded beloved versions of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” over the decades; recent covers by ASCAP members Justin Bieber (2011), Rod Stewart (2012) and Sufjan Stevens (2012) have kept it relevant to today’s listeners, 80 years after it was written.

While this list is stocked with songs that have warmed our hearts and homes for generations, “All I Want for Christmas Is You” deserves attention as the youngest song to crack the list. 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of Walter Afanasieff and Mariah Carey’s modern Christmas classic. Carey’s version holds records for the best-selling holiday ringtone of all time, and is Carey’s biggest hit internationally. “People just like this positive love song. Anybody can sing it to anybody. From father to child, mother to child, wife to husband...it’s universal,” Afanasieff told ASCAP in a recent video interview. “It’s a very simple arrangement...I guess that made it so easy for the whole world to go ‘Oh! I can’t get that out of my head.’” Afanasieff has produced many covers of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” over the years, most recently a version for Idina Menzel’s 2014 holiday album, Holiday Wishes.

Below is the list of the top 30 most-performed ASCAP holiday songs of all time. Each song includes songwriter credits, plus the year that the song was first released, performed or published.

1. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” (1934)
Written by Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie

2. “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” (1946)
Written by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells

3. “White Christmas” (1941)
Written by Irving Berlin

4. “Winter Wonderland” (1934)
Written by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith

5.  “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1944)
Written by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin

6. “Sleigh Ride” (1948)
Written by Leroy Anderson and Mitchell Parish

7. “Jingle Bell Rock” (1958)
Written by Joseph Carleton Beal and James Ross Boothe

8. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1949)
Written by Johnny Marks

9. “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” (1945)
Written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne

10. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (1943)
Written by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent

11. “Little Drummer Boy” (1958)
Written by Katherine Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone

12. “Silver Bells" (1950)
Written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston

13. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (1958)
Written by Johnny Marks

14. “Frosty the Snowman” (1950)
Written by Steve Nelson and Walter E. Rollins

15. “Blue Christmas” (1949)
Written by Billy Hayes and Jay Johnson

16. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (1963)
Written by Edward Pola and George Wyle

17. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” (1951)
Written by Meredith Willson

18. “Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)” (1947)
Written by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman

19. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (1962)
Written by Gloria Shayne Baker (SACEM) and Noël Regney (SACEM)

20. “Carol of the Bells” (1936)
Written by Mykola Leontovych and Peter Wilhousky

21. “Feliz Navidad” (1970)
Written by Jose Feliciano

22. “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” (1964)
Written by Johnny Marks

23. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (1952)
Written by Tommy Connor (PRS)

24. “Last Christmas” (1984)
Written by George Michael

25. “Home for the Holidays” (1954)
Written by Robert Allen and Al Stillman

26. “Wonderful Christmastime” (1979)
Written by Paul McCartney (PRS)

27. “Happy Holidays” (from Holiday Inn) (1942)
Written by Irving Berlin

28. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (1994)
Written by Walter Afanasieff and Mariah Carey (BMI)

29. “Santa Baby” (1953)
Joan Javits, Philip Springer and Tony Springer (SOCAN)

30. “This Christmas” (1970)
Written by Donny Hathaway and Nadine McKinnor

Note: The above list represents an aggregation of all recorded versions of each holiday song ranked based upon ASCAP's historical data from radio, television and internet performances.

About ASCAP

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) is a professional membership organization of songwriters, composers and music publishers of every kind of music. ASCAP's mission is to license and promote the music of its members and foreign affiliates, obtain fair compensation for the public performance of their works and to distribute the royalties that it collects based upon those performances. ASCAP members write the world's best-loved music and ASCAP has pioneered the efficient licensing of that music to hundreds of thousands of enterprises who use it to add value to their business - from bars, restaurants and retail, to radio, TV and cable, to Internet, mobile services and more. The ASCAP license offers an efficient solution for businesses to legally perform ASCAP music while respecting the right of songwriters and composers to be paid fairly. With 500,000 members representing more than 9 million copyrighted works, ASCAP is the worldwide leader in performance royalties, service and advocacy for songwriters and composers, and the only American performing rights organization (PRO) owned and governed by its writer and publisher members. www.ascap.com

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