Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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O Tannenbaum

Earliest known recording by The Nebe Quartett (1907).
Other popular recordings by Nat “King” Cole (1960), Vince Guaraldi Trio (1965), They Might Be Giants (1992).

From the wiki: “‘O Tannebaum’ is a German Christmas song. A ‘Tannenbaum’ is a fir tree. Based on a traditional folk song, it became associated with the traditional Christmas tree by the early 20th century and sung as a Christmas carol.

“The modern lyrics were written in 1824, by the Leipzig organist, teacher and composer Ernst Anschütz, but do not actually refer to Christmas or describe a decorated Christmas tree. Instead, they refer to the fir’s evergreen qualities as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness.

“The folk song first became associated with Christmas with Anschütz, who added two verses of his own to the first, traditional verse of the 16th-century Silesian folk song by Melchior Franck, ‘Ach Tannenbaum’, upon which Anschütz based his lyrics. The custom of the Christmas tree developed over the course of the 19th century, and the song evolved into a Christmas carol from its origin as a tragic love song which took the evergreen, ‘faithful’ fir tree as contrast with a faithless lover.

“The earliest known recording was performed by the Nebe Quartett, a German group founded in Berlin by entertainment singer and bassist Carl Nebe. The quartet was one of the most successful in the early days of sound recording. Between 1907 and 1911 alone, the Nebe Quartett released almost 250 recordings, including ‘O Tannenbaum’ for Edison Gold-Moulded Cylinders.

“In 1960, Nat ‘King’ Cole recorded what is probably the most familiar vocal arrangement of ‘O Tannenbaum’ for the album The Magic of Christmas, his only complete album of Christmas songs. It was the best-selling Christmas album that year.

“The Vince Guaraldi Trio recorded ‘O Tannenbaum’ in 1965 as part of the soundtrack to the animated TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, further cementing the song in the public consciousness, and is now considered to be a bona fide classic. Chris Barton of the Los Angeles Times asserts that the soundtrack introduced jazz to an entirely new generation, having been heard by more individuals than the work of the genre’s most influential players, including Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Guaraldi’s score influenced dozens of young aspiring musicians, among them David Benoit and George Winston.

“The group They Might Be Giants first released ‘O Tannenbaum’ in 1993 as a holiday season single. It was rereleased in 2003 as one of five songs on the EP They Might Be Giants In … Holidayland.”

Nat “King” Cole, “O Tannenbaum” (1960):

Vince Guaraldi Trio, “O Tannenbaum” from A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965):

They Might Be Giants, “O Tannenbaum” (1992):

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