Christmas Song/2022

This year’s offering is a version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane in 1943 for the film, Meet Me in St. Louis.

It first appeared in a scene in which a family is troubled by plans to move to New York City, leaving behind their beloved home in St. Louis. In a scene on Christmas Eve, Judy Garland’s character, Esther, sings the song to cheer up her despondent five-year-old sister, played by Margaret O’Brien. When presented with the original draft lyric, Garland, her co-star Tom Drake and director Vincente Minnelli criticized the song as depressing and asked Martin to change the lyrics. 

Though he initially resisted, Martin made several changes to make the song more upbeat. As Martin tells it, he initially baulked at changing the words. “They said, ‘It’s so dreadfully sad.’ I said, ‘I thought the girls were supposed to be sad in that scene.’ They said, ‘Well, not that sad.’ And Judy was saying, ‘If I sing that to that sweet little Margaret O’Brien, they’ll think I’m a monster!’ And she was quite right, but it took me a long time to get over my pride. Finally, Tom Drake [the young male lead], a friend, convinced me. He said, ‘You stupid son of a b—-! You’re gonna foul up your life if you don’t write another verse of that song!’”

In 1957, Frank Sinatra asked Martin to revise the line, “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.” He told Martin, “The name of my album is A Jolly Christmas. Do you think you could jolly up that line for me?” Martin’s new line was “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.”

So, what I’ve done here is cast a pall over the Holiday Season. Sorry about that. However, it does have a more hopeful-sounding coda where I try to lift the gloom. On that note, all good Christmas wishes to all who follow Five Things, wherever you are in this world. In 2023, I’m going to post every two weeks. I won’t, however, be changing the name to Five Things I Saw and Heard this Fortnight…

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