"Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" Is Most-Played Holiday Song of the Last 50 Years

November 21, 2016

NEW YORK, Nov. 21, 2016:  At this time of year, twinkling lights and the scent of mulled spices and pine unleash a flood of fond memories. But no holiday tradition brings us back like a classic holiday song. These seasonal standards hark back to simpler times, and are the most enduring harbingers of the holiday season. Of all the season’s tunes, the one song listeners have heard more than any other in the last half century reminds us of another holiday staple: Santa Claus.

Cumulative data since 1966 shows that “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” written by American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) songwriters Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie and copyrighted in 1934, is the most played holiday song of the last 50 years.

In fact, ASCAP data shows that the classics still dominate the holiday charts. Among the top songs written or co-written by members of ASCAP include “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Sleigh Ride” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams commented: “The world may have changed profoundly over the last 50 years, but these songs have been part of the holiday spirit for generations. Part of the wonder of music is how it helps us continue to create real memories and traditions. These treasured songs are very special to so many people and are a beloved part of ASCAP’s repertoire.”

“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” was first performed live by singer and comedy performer, Eddie Cantor, on his radio show, and recorded by banjoist Harry Reser and his Orchestra in 1934 when it topped the sheet music charts. The lyrics encouraged children hoping to get a visit from Santa Claus to behave well, and struck fear in the hearts of little mischief-makers everywhere since Santa “sees you when you’re sleeping” and “knows when you’re awake.”

In 1935, popular music icons began their love affair with “Santa Claus” when Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra recorded their version. Since then, artists as varied as Frank Sinatra, The Supremes, The Jackson 5, The Beach Boys, The Carpenters, Dolly Parton, Neil Diamond, Glenn Campbell, George Strait and Andrea Bocelli have interpreted the song for each generation. In 1970, Rankin/Bass produced a television special Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town featuring legendary performer, Fred Astaire, as the narrator. Bruce Springsteen’s rendition gave it a rock rebirth in 1975.

Despite the dominance of traditional tunes on the holiday charts, a few new songs have become a part of the season’s canon. They include “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney, “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Walter Afanasieff and Mariah Carey, and “Last Christmas” by George Michael.

The top thirty most-played holiday songs for the recent holiday season are listed below, all written or co-written by ASCAP songwriters and composers. Each song includes songwriter credits and where available, date copyrighted.


1. "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"
Written by Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie, 1934


2. "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"
Written by Ralph Blaine and Hugh Martin, 1943


3. "Winter Wonderland"
Written by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith, 1934


4. “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”
Written by Sammy Chan and Jule Styne, 1945


5. "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting…)"
Written by Mel Tormé  and Robert Wells, 1946


6. "Jingle Bell Rock"
Written by Joseph Carleton Beal and James Ross Boothe, 1957


7. "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year"
Written by Edward Pola and George Wyle 1963


8. "Sleigh Ride"
Written by Leroy Anderson and Mitchell Parish, 1950


9. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"
Written by Johnny Marks


10. "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"
Written by Meredith Wilson, 1951


11. "White Christmas"

Written by Irving Berlin, 1940


12. “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas”

Written by Johnny Marks, 1962


13. “Carol of the Bells”

Written by Mykola Leontovych and Peter Wilhousky, 1936


14. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”

Written by Johnny Marks, 1958


15. “All I Want for Christmas Is You”

Written by Walter Afanasieff and Mariah Carey


16. “Frosty the Snowman”

Written by Steve Nelson and Walter E. Rollins, 1950


17. “Blue Christmas”

Written by Billy Hayes and Jay Johnson, 1948


18. “Home for the Holidays”

Written by Robert Allen and Al Stillman, 1954


19. “Little Drummer Boy”

Written by Katherine Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone, 1958


20. “Do You Hear What I Hear”

Written by Gloria Shayne Baker and Noël Regney, 1962


21. “Silver Bells”

Written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston, 1950


22. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”

Written by Frank Loesser, 1948


23. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”

Written by Tommy Connor, 1952


24. “Feliz Navidad”

Written by Jose Feliciano, 1970


25. “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)”

Written by Robert Kinkel, Paul O'Neill and John Oliva


26. “Last Christmas”

Written by George Michael


27. “Here Comes Santa Claus”

Written by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman, 1947


28. “Santa Baby”

Written by Joan Javits, Philip Springer and Tony Springer, 1953


29. “Happy Holiday (From Holiday Inn)”

Written by Irving Berlin, 1948


30. “Wonderful Christmastime”

Written by Paul McCartney


Note: The list above represents an aggregation of performances of all different artist versions of each cited holiday song, across all forms of media, from 1/1/15 through 12/31/15. 

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 825,000 members representing more than 16 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. Learn more and stay in touch at www.ascap.com, on Twitter @ASCAP and on Facebook.

Media Contacts:

Bobbi Marcus
Bobbi Marcus PR & Events, Inc.
(310) 889-9200

Michelle Ferguson-Cohen
Bobbi Marcus PR & Events, Inc
(917) 640-2844


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