Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Merry Little Christmas Bonus


In this week before Christmas, here is a reposting of a blog that ran last year, but I think it’s timely and interesting enough to re-run.  You may have missed it, and even if you read it, you have problably forgotten it.

A favorite song this time of year is Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane’s “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” with its heart-warming lyrics that cheered up adorable little Margaret O’Brien when Judy Garland sang them in Meet Me in St. Louis.  The original lyrics by Martin, however, were not at all  heart-warming.  In fact, Garland and director Vincente Minnelli found them downright depressing.  The original lyrics were:
 
               Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
             It may be your last,
             Next year we may all be living in the past.
           
            Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
            Pop that champagne cork,
            Next year we will all be living in New York.

            No good times like the olden days,
            Happy golden days of yore,
            Faithful friends who were dear to us
            Will be near to us no more.

            But at least we all will be together,
            If the Lord allows,
            From now on we'll have to muddle through somehow,
            So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Martin resisted changing anything, but finally agreed to make the song more upbeat.  His new lyric was:

            Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
            Let your heart be light,
            From now on, our troubles will be out of sight.

            Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
            Make the Yuletide gay,
            From now on, our troubles will be miles away.

            Here we are as in olden days,
            Happy golden days of yore.
            Faithful friends who are dear to us           
            Gather near to us once more.

            Through the years we all will be together,
            If the Fates allow,
            Until then we’ll have to muddle through   
                    somehow,           
            So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.  

You’ll note that the “Lord” is changed to the “Fates.” Apparently, Hollywood felt you shouldn't be too religious about Christmas!

In 1957, Frank Sinatra asked Martin to “jolly up” the line "Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow" for his album "A Jolly Christmas." Martin's new line—"Hang a shining star upon the highest bough"—is now more widely known than the original.

Yet another lyrical change was in store.  In 2001, Martin, a devout Seventh Day Adventist, wrote a religious version of the song:

            Have yourself a blessed little Christmas,
            Christ the King is born,
            Let your voices ring upon this happy morn.  
           
            Have yourself a blessed little Christmas,
            Serenade the Earth,
            Tell the world we celebrate the Savior's birth. 

            Let us gather to sing to Him
            And to bring to Him our praise, 
            Son of God and a Friend of all, 
            To the end of all our days. 

            Sing hosannas, hymns, and hallelujahs, 
            As to Him we bow, 
            Make the music mighty as the heav'ns allow, 
           And have yourself a blessed little Christmas now.
         
So take your choice—depressing, uplifting, or religious—but since Martin died last year, at the age of 96, there probably won’t be any more versions.

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou, who is not yet 96 but after years of dissipation looks about 105, spins out new versions of his stuff with alacrity, hoping someday to get it right.  So far, he hasn't.
 
             Whenever I’m lyrical,
             I’m a song-writing miracle,
             A self-serving Merlin,
             Just like Irving Berlin,
             When I wave my wand, I’m
             A new Stephen Sondheim.
             My songs are high-powered,
             Like those of Noel Coward,
             You’ll find that my arts are
             The same as Lorenz Hart’s are,
             My grammar’s fine,
             Like Hammerstein,
             And my wit is much rarer
             Than spoofs by Tom Lehrer,
             Words spun from my web
             Rival those of Fred Ebb,
             They’re snappier and shorter
             Than songs by Cole Porter.
             When I’m in my prime,
             There’s no name I can’t rhyme!
             Just take Ira Gershwin….
             Well… maybe I’d better not give up my day job.


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