Nat "King" Cole
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Nat "King" Cole's "The Christmas Song": For The Record
"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire."
What would Christmas be without this classic opening line from Nat "King" Cole's "The Christmas Song"? It's hard to imagine. Luckily, we don't have to.
The history of "The Christmas Song" dates back to the mid-1940s, when the would-be future classic was penned by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé. Though the lyrics suggest a frosty winter scene, believe it or not, the tune was actually written on a blistering July day in Southern California as a way for the songwriters to mentally cool off. It ended up as a fully-fledged Christmas tune in just about 45 minutes.
Cole was first brought on to record the song with his trio in 1946. He re-recorded the song again the same year with a small string section and again in 1953 with a Nelson Riddle full orchestral arrangement. However, it's the classic stereophonic recording Cole made in 1961 that most people are familiar with that has become the definitive holiday song.
To honor where the classic Christmas recording started, the 1946 version of Cole's "The Christmas Song" was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 1974. It's also been covered by seemingly countless artists over the years, including Bing Crosby, George Strait, Celine Dion, and jazz singer Diane Schuur, who earned a GRAMMY nomination for 1989 for her version.
Cole was recognized in 1990 with a posthumous Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award. The smooth crooner earned one career GRAMMY at the 2nd GRAMMY Awards for Best Performance By A "Top 40" Artist for "Midnight Flyer."