Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

First performed (in Meet Me in St. Louis) by Judy Garland (1944).
Popular recorded versions Judy Garland (1944), by Frank Sinatra (1957), Barbra Streisand (1967), The Pretenders (1987), Sam Smith (2014).

From the wiki: “‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, was introduced by Judy Garland in a poignant moment in the 1944 movie musical Meet Me In St. Louis. 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, e.g. the lines ‘It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past’ became ‘Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight’. Garland’s version of the song, which was also released as a single by Decca Records, became popular among United States troops serving in World War II; her performance at the Hollywood Canteen brought many soldiers to tears.

“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.’ Martin made several other alterations, changing the song’s focus to a celebration of present happiness, rather than anticipation of a better future. On The Judy Garland Show Christmas Special, in 1963, Garland sang the song to her children Joey and Lorna Luft with Sinatra’s alternate lyrics.

“The original lyrics Garland sang in Meet Me in St. Louis have been recorded with only slight variations by a number of artists, including Bing Crosby (in I Wish You a Merry Christmas), Doris Day (in The Doris Day Christmas Album), Ella Fitzgerald (in Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas), The Pretenders (in the first A Very Special Christmas compilation),

“In 2007, ASCAP ranked ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ the third-most performed Christmas song during the preceding five years (that had been written by ASCAP members). In 2004 the holiday favorite finished at #76 in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs rankings of the top tunes in American cinema.”

Judy Garland, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” single release (1944):

Frank Sinatra, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1957):

Barbra Streisand, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1967):

The Pretenders, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1987):

Sam Smith, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (2014):

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