Christmas Songs: Johnny Mathis, “Sleigh Ride,” 1958

Me, I like it a lot; I certainly heard a lot of “Sleigh Ride” growing up.  And I like this version very much.  It is bright, youthful, and there is something about it that makes one think of anticipating good times and happy thoughts.

“Sleigh Ride” ranks among the top ten of Christmas songs sung during this time of year, according to an ASCAP survey taken in 2006.  But the version that they were referring to was not Mathis’, but The Ronettes‘, which was released in their heyday in the Sixties.  And ASCAP was handicapping frequency of radio airplay.  However, for two straight years, 2010-2011, it was number one in ASCAP tracking, but again it was not Mathis’ version, but the composer’s instrumental version that was recorded in 1950, that won the laurels.

“Sleigh Ride” was composed around 1948 by Leroy Anderson.  The idea had been knocking about in his head for two years before he put it to paper, but apparently, the inspiration came from Anderson’s experiencing a heat wave and naturally, wishing for cooler weather.  However it was two more years before the lyrics were set by Mitchell Parish.

Johnny Mathis included the song in his album, Merry Christmas, on the Columbia label.  I mean, almost every popular artist at that time was faced with doing a Christmas album, from Sinatra to the Jackson Five; he was no different.  It was almost like a rite of passage and of acceptability in the mainstream.  Wikipedia says:  “According to author Steve Metcalf  in his book, Leroy Anderson: A Bio-Bibliography [Praeger 2004], “‘Sleigh Ride’ … has been performed and recorded by a wider array of musical artists than any other piece in the history of Western music.”


~ by blksista on December 2, 2012.

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