Kristin Chenoweth and violinist Joshua Bell appeared on the special Christmas Eve installment of Fox & Friends on Thursday before an in-studio military audience. They performed “White Christmas,” the Irving Berlin standard that falls afoul of Keillor’s Christmas curse. The military audience for the song was appropriate. As my friend Steve Hunegs observes, “White Christmas” debuted on NBC with Bing Crosby singing it on December 25, 1941, just two weeks after the Pearl Harbor attack at a time when Americans were resolute, but yearning for happier times.
If we’re sick of the song, it’s with good reason. According to Gary Giddins, Bing Crosby’s record of “White Christmas” is the most popular recording of all time. It made the American pop charts twenty times, every year but one between 1942 and 1962. It spoiled many of Keillor’s Christmases.
There must be something about the song. Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, Tony Bennett and Iggy Pop, among many others, have seen fit to record it. New Orleans’ very cool Allen Toussaint recorded a lively swinging version. Frank Sinatra recorded it three times. I don’t know if the song is salvageable at this late date, but Chenoweth and Bell each bring something special to it. We wrote briefly about Joshua Bell a while back in “Beauty out of context.” Here the beauty is entirely in context.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
“Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.” Inscription on the Liberty Bell