The Story of “White Christmas,” the Biggest-Selling Single of All Time

As far as anyone can tell, the single biggest-selling record in the history of the galaxy is “White Christmas,” a song that came out 75 years ago this year. Billboard has its remarkable story.

It’s a typical sunny day in Jupiter, Florida and Nathaniel Crosby, the seventh son of Bing, is fresh from the golf course. It was a habit, and later a profession, he picked up from his famous father who passed away when the younger Crosby was 16. While Bing charted an astounding 386 songs between 1927 and 1962, there’s one track above all that’s more associated with the legendary singer than any other. “I think people identify him with Christmas just as much as Jesus and Santa Claus,” Nathaniel jokes. “We have some downloads of dad’s stuff we play, and if I have a couple of tequilas you’ll hear me try to chime in.”

When Crosby’s iconic “White Christmas” came out 75 years ago this year, it was welcomed as readily as a sleigh full of gifts, becoming one of the most successful songs in the history of recorded music. (With 50,000,000 copies sold, the Guinness Book of World Records dubs it the best-selling single of all time.) Arguably helping launch an entire genre of Christmas music, its melancholy lyrics and memorable melody have been covered by an immense array of artists, with its sentiments soothing a grieving and terrified nation navigating its way through a bloody, far-away and all-consuming war. But despite its subsequent stature and accolades, it was all originally conceived as a simple joke.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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