Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: A Haunting Song of Hope

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Judy Garland singing at a Bob Hope USO show in Stockton CA in 1943

There are some songs at Christmas that despite their relative newness as compared to ancient carols seem to strike a chord that resonates deep in the hearts of people. One of those for me, and probably many others is the song Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. The music written by Ralph Blane and the lyrics by Hugh Martin for the musical Meet Me in St Louis and first performed by Judy Garland in that film. In the movie Garland’s character sings the song to her younger sister after their father announces plans to move from their home of St Louis to New York for a job.

The lyrics for the musical were changed because Garland’s director Vincent Minnelli and co-star Tom Drake felt that Martin’s original lyrics which began with “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas, it could be your last. Next year we may all be living in the past” were too depressing. The lyrics were changed to “let your heart be light, Next year all our troubles will be out of sight” in response to their request. The words sung in the musical by Judy Garland have a haunting but very real feel for people who face uncertainty at Christmas, as such they were very meaningful to the US military personnel who heard them at the front in the Second World War.

As originally produced they reflect a hope for a better future as opposed to a carefree present. As such they are probably much more appropriate to our current time than in the mid-1950s when Frank Sinatra recorded a modified version of the song for his album A Jolly Christmas.

Sinatra asked Martin to “jolly up” the line “we’ll have to muddle through somehow” and Martin changed it to “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough”. 

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5g4lY8Y3eoo

Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in “Meet Me in St Louis” 1944 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas. 

Let your heart be light.

Next year all our troubles 

Will be out of sight.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
Make the Yule-tide 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
Will be near to us once more.

Someday soon 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.

When Frank Sinatra recorded the song in 1957 it too became a hit and the focus on present happiness rather than a hope for a better future fit the times in which it was recorded. Sinatra’s version also notes that “faithful friends gather near to us once more” instead of “will be near to us once more.” 

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52db1eVHQjw

Frank Sinatra Sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

The song was re-written by Martin a number of times including a “Christian” version which included the words “if the Lord allows” instead of “if the fates allow.”

The song is one is one of the most recorded Christmas songs ever written  and can be heard being sung by artists as diverse as Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Rod Steward, the Carpenters, Kelly Clarkson and even the Pretenders and even Twisted Sister.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzxLBdkN7OI

Twisted Sister singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

rod-stewart

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JChA2MHNk2c

Rod Stewart singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” 

The song as recorded by Judy Garland is actually my favorite, though I also love the Sinatra version.  Somehow “muddling through somehow” seems to be more appropriate  in my experience.

So enjoy these versions of a song that has touched the hearts of hundreds of millions of people since it was first recorded. May it be an inspiration in these uncertain times of a hope for a better future. Maybe that makes it a better Advent song, but I digress….

Peace

Padre Steve+

2 Comments

Filed under movies, music

2 responses to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: A Haunting Song of Hope

  1. I’m glad to see somebody else has taken this song as somewhat melancholy. I always thought of this one, and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” as both wistful songs, sung by people who maybe don’t REALLY believe all they’re saying, but are putting on a brave face. Or voice. Or whatever. 🙂
    And thank you, for confirming the different versions. I once had a debate with somebody who thought I was nuts with the “muddling through” line. Thank you, for confirming this one tiny island of sanity in the ocean that is .. well, me. 😀
    And remember, we just have to make it to 6:11 am tomorrow morning. After that, we’re home free! 😉

  2. padresteve

    Reblogged this on Padresteve's World…Musings of a Passionate Moderate and commented:

    Friends of Padre Steve’s World. Yet another post about Christmas music, this one a repeat from last year about the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Peace and Blessings, Padre Steve+

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