Bing Crosby performed Irving Berlin’s melancholy White Christmas for the first time on his weekly NBC radio program, The Kraft Music Hall. It went on to become the top-selling single of all time until being surpassed by Elton John’s Candle in the Wind in 1997.
Crosby’s October 1942 recording of White Christmas was played frequently on commercial and Armed Forces Radio and became the #1 pop hit. The song returned to the Hit Parade pop chart in every subsequent Christmas season for the next 20 years.
Jody Rosen, author of the book White Christmas:The Story of an American Song, noted on an NPR interview: “It’s very melancholy….And I think this really makes it stand out amongst kind of chirpy seasonal standards [like] ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ or ‘Let It Snow.’….I think that’s one of the reasons why people keep responding to it, because our feelings over the holiday season are ambivalent.”