December 25, 2012

"Have yourself a merry little Christmas / It may be your last/ Next year we may all be living in the past."

The original lyric to "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," which I learned about after happening to catch the tail end of "Meet Me in St. Louis" while channel surfing last night. We happened to drop in just as Judy Garland was about to sing the much-loved Christmas tune, which might have been less-loved if Judy hadn't pushed for happier lyrics. The line, revised, is "Let your heart be light/Next year all our troubles will be out of sight."



What Judy and Margaret O'Brien are so sad about there is moving to New York. They love St. Louis.

Judy's version, in turn, was insufficiently happy for Frank Sinatra, who got the line "Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow" changed to "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough." Here's Frank. I think "muddle through" would have suited him — that edge of sadness. And "bough" is a silly word.

There's another place in the song with alternate lyrics: "Through the years, we all will be together if the fates allow," was originally "if the Lord allows." Judy sang "the fates," but returning to "the Lord" is something you can always do.

14 comments:

YoungHegelian said...

Meet me in St. Louis was made in 1944.

No one in that audience could have heard those lyrics without applying them to their present wartime situation.

Everyone knew it was still a long slog ahead, and no one knew how many of their own would still be alive at the end of it.

Ann Althouse said...

At the Wiki link: "Garland's version of the song, which was also released as a single by Decca Records, became popular among United States troops serving in World War II; her performance at the Hollywood Canteen brought many soldiers to tears."

ricpic said...

Judy Garland has that great talent, although I'm not sure talent is the right word, to bring her audience to tears. The exposed heart. That's it. Her range is amazing. There are songs that you would think are totally inappropriate for her to sing and she tugs the heartstrings singing them. Old Man River. Go view the You Tube of Garland singing a song that's always associated with big barrel-chested basso profundos. She kills it. And makes you, well...me, cry.

edutcher said...

Never liked the song. It's right down there with "Pretty Paper", but, yes, you have to see the movie to understand why it's so bitter.

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erika said...

I never knew the background of that song. Now I know why it always sounds so very very sad and wistful to me.

And I've noticed the 'if the Fates allow' line too, and mentally corrected it to 'if God allows.' YMMV, of course.

Ann Althouse said...

"why it's so bitter'

The movie is based on the problem of moving from St. Louis to New York.

Bender said...

Vic Damone, on one of the Christmas LPs put out by Firestone.

Clyde said...

We were listening to Frank Sinatra's Christmas album before lunch. His version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" recorded in 1963 had the "muddle through somehow" lyrics.

traditionalguy said...

Judy Garland was the best. Shared her wounded spirit with a courage that touched the wounded parts in many men and women. She doesn't get the recognition she. deserves.

Storkdoc said...

This has always been my favorite Christmas song, but I've always preferred the sad songs. What bugs me is performers who don't know the history of the song and try and sing in like a happy and cheerful song. It is not that. It is about moving away from the people you love and wondering if you will ever get to see them again. A very appropriate song from WW II. Just like "I'll be home for Christmas," Bing's big hit also from WW II

St. George said...

"2000 Miles" by The Pretenders is another sad one.

"He's gone 2000 miles
It's very far
The snow is falling down
Gets colder day by day
I miss you."

It's either about Jesus or her recently dead guitar player who o.d'ed on heroin. Could be about both of them, maybe, if by 'miles' she meant 'years,' you know, cuz it's poetry.

Deb said...

I was shocked to learn that she was only 43 when she died.

MadisonMan said...

I'd much rather listen to The Trolley Song in that movie.