The Twelve Songs of Christmas: “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” (Bruce Springsteen)

Please welcome back Lorfimus Prime for today’s Christmas song!

“It’s all cold down along the beach. Wind’s whipping down the Boardwalk.” It might sound strange to picture Santa Claus on the Asbury Park boardwalk parking his reindeer beside Madame Marie’s fortune telling booth, but then again, “White Christmas,” the quintessential Christmas song, was written by the Jewish Irving Berlin and was actually set in Beverly Hills, California.

“Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie made its debut in 1934 on the Eddie Cantor radio program and became an instant hit in both record and sheet music formats. Ever since its appearance, it has been a popular entry in the canon of family holiday classics. Two of the most successful and enduring versions are the 1953 recording by the “Singing Cowboy” Gene Autry and the 1963 version by the Four Seasons.

In 1970 Rankin/Bass, the animation outlet behind 1964’s Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, produced a television special based on “Santa Clause Is Comin’ To Town.” While never gaining the classic status of Rudolf the stop-action special headlined by the voice of Fred Astaire has remained an end-of-year staple. It was later that decade that what was to become the seminal recording of the tune was recorded to be released further down the road.

Bruce Springsteen might seem an unlikely candidate to cover a simple family Christmas ditty, but then again, his fans have come to expect the unexpected from the Boss — like releasing his stark Nebraska as a follow up to his mega-selling rockers Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and The River. The song was recorded live with his E Street Band in 1975 and released in 1982 as a track on the Sesame Street anthology In Harmony 2. Its first appearance as an “official” Springsteen release was as the B-side of the single “My Hometown” in 1985.

There are those who refuse to rank the song on the best Christmas songs ever list alongside such standards as “White Christmas”, and “Home for the Holidays” including which this year included it on its list of “The 20 Sh*ttiest Christmas Songs Ever Recorded.” There, it was described as “…this sweaty-dad-ripping-a-hole-in-the-ass-pocket-of-his-Levis groaner that’s somehow become ubiquitous in recent years.” No matter, it’s an annual sing-along favorite among fans at Springsteen’s live shows and a popular radio presence on stations around the country.

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2 thoughts on “The Twelve Songs of Christmas: “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” (Bruce Springsteen)

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