According to some accounts, great American composer Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas” while staying at a La Quintana Inn in Southern California in 1940. Inspired by the sights and sounds that he associated with the holiday seasons of his youth in New York, Berlin created a song timeless and beautiful Christmas imagery; glistening treetops, the gentling ringing of sleigh bells and beautiful.
The version of the song released by legendary singer Bing Crosby in 1942 was an instant hit and quickly became part of the holiday song canon. Since its release, that version of the song has sold more than 100 million units, making it one of the most popular singles in American music history.
However, despite the track’s iconic status, a number of talented artists have recorded cover versions of “White Christmas.” Here’s a rundown of the five best.
A cut from Elvis Presley’s 1957 fourth album, Elvis’ Christmas album, this cover of “White Christmas” marries the nostalgic warmth of the Crosby version with the King’s signature warbling baritone and a wonderfully rich string section. Despite being objectively gorgeous, Berlin loathed this rendition of his most famous song and tried to get taken off the airwaves upon its original release.
4. The Drifters
The first rock ‘n roll infused version of “White Christmas,” The Drifters’ cover features a crisp doo-wop arrangement and an impossibly syrupy vocal from bass singer Bill Pinkney. Although a hit when it was originally released in 1954, the song is probably best known to contemporary listeners due to its use in the 1990 holiday classic “Home Alone.”
3. The Supremes
A full minute longer than the Bing Crosby version, the Supremes’ cover of “White Christmas” is a Motown wonder. It features suitably honeyed vocal tones, the unexpected but totally welcome addition of some woodwinds, and a bells and backing vocals outro that is nothing short of sublime.
2. Lady Gaga
Like David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s cover of “The Little Drummer Boy,” Lady Gaga’s cover of “White Christmas” shows that holiday classics can greatly benefit from being performed by artists who exemplify modernity. Funnily enough, this track was recorded for Gaga’s 2011 TV special A Very Gaga Thanksgiving.
1. Otis Redding
No other version of “White Christmas” captures the depth of feeling inherent to Irving Berlin’s words with the same directness and passion as Otis Redding’s cover. This rendition, posthumously released in 1968, is suffused with so much emotion, it brings a chill to one’s spine.