Originally recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” has become one of America’s most popular holiday songs and it’s still a big hit. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) named it the #10 most-performed holiday song of the last century.
I’ll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the lovelight gleams
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams
The song has been written from the perspective of a soldier serving overseas during World War II. The soldier is telling his family that he will be coming home for the holiday and requests snow, mistletoe, and presents on the tree. The 39 words long song “I’ll be Home for Christmas” ends on a melancholy note with the soldier saying, “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams”.
“I’ll be Home for Christmas” was written by Walter Kent and Kim Gannon in 1943.
Later Sam “Buck” Ram was also credited as a co-writer of the song following a lawsuit brought by Ram’s publisher, Mills Music. Sam “Buck” Ram copyrighted a song titled “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” on December 21st, 1942. Besides the fact that the lyrics and the tune were different he sued successfully for shared credit and was credited as a co-writer of the song.
Gannon and Kent couldn’t get any takers for the tune because people in the music business felt that the final line was too sad for all those separated from their loved ones in the military. Crosby agreed to record it after Gannon sang the song for him while the two were playing golf.
It was October 4th, 1943, when Crosby recorded the song under the title “I’ll Be Home For Christmas (If Only In My Dreams)” with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra for Decca Records. The song hit the music charts in a short period and it became one of the most requested songs at Crosby’s many USO shows throughout World War II.
In 1943 the world was at war and many Americans were out on the battlefields during Christmas. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was the best gift for many soldiers who were spending Christmas far from home and their families. It was a wartime favorite for many Americans says the Library of Congress:
“It touched a tender place in the hearts of Americans, both soldiers and civilians, who were then in the depths of World War II, and it earned Crosby his fifth gold record”.
However, not everyone loved “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and BBC banned the song because they thought that the lyrics might lower morale among British troops.
“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” has been covered by almost every artist who’s ever released a Christmas album, for example, Perry Como (1946), Frank Sinatra (1957) and countless other artists.