Phil & Mel In The Afternoon

Phil & Mel In The Afternoon

When "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was written for the 1944 musical, "Meet Me in St. Louis," it was such a sad song that the film's star, Judy Garland, added some lyrics of her own. (Photo by naumoid/iStock via Getty Images)

In 1943, MGM hired Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane to write several songs for the movie musical, Meet Me in St. Louis. One of the songs they came up with was “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Let’s look back at how this holiday classic came to be with another Throwback Threesome.

Meet Me in St. Louis opened in theaters in 1944. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was first heard during a scene in which the Smith family is distraught by the father’s plans to move to New York City for a job promotion. This meant that they would leaving their beloved home in St. Louis, Missouri, just before the 1904 World’s Fair opened. On Christmas Eve, Judy Garland’s character, Esther, sings the song to cheer up her despondent five-year-old sister, Tootie, played by Margaret O’Brien.

According to Songfacts, Judy Garland added some lyrics of her own to lighten the mood of the song. She felt the original words were too dark and didn’t feel comfortable singing them in the movie. In 1957, Frank Sinatra wanted to change the melancholy lyrics again to something more upbeat for his album, A Jolly Christmas. Songwriter Hugh Martin changed the line, “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow” to, “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.” This is the way we usually hear the song now.

Given the timing of the song’s debut, Judy Garland’s original version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” brought comfort to many American soldiers who were fighting overseas during World War II. Since then, the song has been covered by many other artists, including Frank Sinatra, Mel TormĂ©, The Carpenters, The Pretenders, Luther Vandross, James Taylor, Michael BublĂ©, Kelly Clarkson, Josh Groban, Sam Smith, Lauren Daigle, John Legend, and Carrie Underwood.

Throwback Threesome: “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”

  • "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" - Judy Garland (1944)

    This was the first time the public heard “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” In a scene from the 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis, Judy Garland sings the melancholy song as Esther Smith to console her younger sister, Tootie, played by Margaret O’Brien. Garland’s version reached No. 27 on the Billboard charts.

  • "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" - James Taylor (2001)

    Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC, James Taylor released a version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” with the original lyrics, capturing the appropriate mood for the 2001 Christmas season. In the clip below, James performs the song at the 2016 National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the White House.

  • "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" - Sam Smith (2014)

    English pop star Sam Smith released a cover version in 2014 which debuted at number 90 on the Billboard Hot 100, the first time a version of the song had landed on that particular chart. Smith’s single reached the top ten on the U.S. and Canadian adult contemporary charts and on the U.S. Holiday chart. It also cracked the top forty in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland.

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