A Holiday Classic From James Taylor
Listen to the interview with James Taylor.
His Melancholy 'Christmas' Captures Nation's Mood After Sept. 11
Listen to the full version of James Taylor's rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".
Taylor says the idea to record a melancholy version of the song came at the spur of the moment last spring.
Photo:Sony Music Entertainment
Dec. 21, 2001 -- First written for Judy Garland in MGM's 1944 musical, Meet Me in St. Louis, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" has since become one of America's most beloved Christmas songs. Artists from Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald to Christina Aguilera have recorded it -- more than 500 versions in all.
For James Taylor, the idea to add his voice to the multitudes came at the spur of the moment. "We were in a studio in New York to record another tune actually, something that I was working on for an upcoming album," he told NPR's Alex Chadwick on Morning Edition. "We got that done pretty quickly and decided to try something else. We had the band there and more studio time. It was very casual."
In the past, other singers have done more upbeat versions: In the '50s, Sinatra had the line "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough" inserted in place of the darker, original line "Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow." Taylor, though, wanted to stay faithful to the Meet Me in St. Louis tone: "I always sort of thought of this song with these lyrics from the movie," he said. "And it resonates more with me this way, with the sort of sadder, more melancholy lyrics. I like it better."
Meet Me in St. Louis, MGM, 1944
Photo courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer
As soon as he cut the song, Taylor says he felt he had a good version of it. "A lot of people really liked this, and we were talking about it as a possible Christmas song, or other people were floating ideas like you should do a Christmas album."
Then came Sept. 11.
After the terror attacks, as the holiday season approached, he played the recording for close friends and colleagues. The response was striking: some people seemed shell-shocked, others wept. "The response was often, this should really come out this Christmas. You shouldn't hold it for the album," he said. "So many people said it that we pursued it. It's just a sad coincidence."
Taylor sent the song out to radio stations -- but it still won't be in stores until his new album comes out next spring. For this holiday season, some of his recording can be heard on Friday's Morning Edition and on NPR Online.
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Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis, 1944.|
Photo courtesy of MGM
Hear an excerpt of James Taylor's version of "Have Yourself a Merry
Little Christmas" (RealAudio G2
Hear Judy Garland sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little
Christmas" (MP3 format) in MGM's 1944 musical, Meet Me in
Read James Taylor's biography at
Read more about James Taylor at
Sony Music Web site.
Lyrics to "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
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 yuletide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away
Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us once more
Through the years, 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.
Composed by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane
Courtesy of MGM Music