“Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee
Brenda Lee has noted that when she first heard “Rockin”’ Around the Christmas Tree”, she was digging the tune because “it was a rocking kind of a song”, i.e. one that differs from your traditional carol. Indeed, it may even be that this particular outing was the one which served as a prototype for modern Christmas songs as we know them today.
So basically, what the vocalist proceeds to do is shoutout various characteristics that you would find at a poppin’ Christmas party of her day. For instance, as illustrated in the first verse, there’s “the Christmas tree”. And participants are performing a dance known as “party hop”, which is believed to have been a trend at the time in which partygoers would do their thing devoid of wearing shoes.
And then there’s the mistletoe. Many readers already know that according to Christmas tradition in some parts of the world, these plants are hung, and whoever meets thereunder, i.e. romantic interests, are then forced to kiss. So as Brenda explains the scene, “every couple” in the venue is making an effort to find themselves under a mistletoe.
We also have the young singer looking forward to some good old fashioned caroling, the sweet food spread laid out for the holidays, etc. And overall, she paints a sound picture of everyone in the house simply enjoying, as they are all ideally imbued with “the Christmas spirit”.
Original Release Date of “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”
Decca Records dropped this track way back in 1958. And its vocalist, Brenda Lee, is still alive and kicking as of this writing, as she approaches the age of 80. This is so due to the fact that Lee, a native of (the state of) Georgia, laid down “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” when she was but 13 years old.
She subsequently went on to drop a lengthy discography spanning six decades. But regardless of the countless songs Lee has come out with between now and 1958, this holiday classic is considered her signature piece.
A Very Successful Song
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 three times during the early 1960s. It disappeared from the chart for over 50 years, and then re-appeared in 2014 and has charted every year since.
In fact as this post is being edited in late November of 2022, it is very much on the Billboard Hot 100. And in 2019, 2020 and 2021, it actually reached an impressive peak position of number 2 on said list even though, to reiterate, it was over 60 years old by that point.
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” reached fifth place on the UK Singles Chart in 2021. Furthermore, the United Kingdom is also the only country in which it has thus far been certified double-platinum. And to note, throughout the years it has also charted in over 20 nations around the world.
Famous Covers of “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”
Further speaking of the United Kingdom, a couple of Englanders, Mel Smith and Kim Wilde, dropped their own rendition of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” in 1987, which did pretty well in their homeland.
Other artists who have covered this song to notable chart success are Kacey Musgraves alongside Camila Cabello in 2007. Justin Bieber also covered it, in conjunction with Amazon, in 2020.
And being that this is indeed a Christmas standard, a slew of other singers have come out with their own renditions, including the likes of the following:
- Alabama (1996)
- Cyndi Lauper (1998)
- Miley Cyrus (2017)
Appearance on “Home Alone”
On account of its success, this classic Christmas song has been featured on a number of commercials, TV shows and movies. One of the song’s most notable appearances was on the 1990s’ “Home Alone”, a Christmas classic itself, even though it did not make it onto the flick’s soundtrack.
In fact concerning this song’s contemporary success, Brenda Lee herself has attributed that phenomenon to its utilization in said film.
Who wrote “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”?
The writer of this piece was Johnny Marks (1909-1985). Actually Marks authored a number of classic Christmas songs despite, quite interestingly, not celebrating the holiday due to his Jewish faith.
The producer of this track was one Owen Bradley (1915-1998). Owen is considered a pioneer as far as country music goes.
Johnny Marks recruited Brenda Lee to participate on this song at a time when the latter was only 12 years old and yet to be a music star. The two of them did go on to establish a lifelong relationship.
Some More Interesting Stuff
To note, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” did not blow up until Lee herself did, upon the onset of the 1960s. (Her first studio album, 1959’s “Grandma, What Great Songs You Sang!”, didn’t come out until after this song was dropped.) And even though hers is not a name you hear being mentioned on par with the likes of The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Ray Charles, besides those artists, Lee had more hits in the US during the 1960s than any other musician.
Brenda Lee has revealed that she was able to lay down this classic in only two takes. And she explained that the track was recorded “in the heat of summer”, not during the holiday season. However, Owen Bradley and co. went out of their way to make the studio “Christmassy” in the name of properly laying down this song.
To note, the instruction to “deck the halls with boughs of holly”, as found in the pre-chorus, is actually derived from “Deck the Halls” (a famous traditional Christmas carol). That Christmas carol is more ubiquitous than “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, and in conception, it predates Brenda Lee’s piece by about four centuries.
So the aforementioned line is actually a very-popular one. And for the record a bough of holly is, more simply put, the limb of a holly plant, an organism that vibrantly grows and spouts berries even during the winter. As history would have it, boughs of holly have long been used as decorations, etc., especially during this time of year.