The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

I'll Be Home for Christmas

Words and Music by Kim Gannon, Buck Ram, and Walter Kent, 1943, revised 1948

William Studwell, The Christmas Carol Reader

Nostalgic songs about home, family, and sweethearts are normal in times of war. The "Big War," World War II, had its share of such emotion-touching compositions. One of the best of that period, written at the midpoint of the American participation in the conflict, was the 1943 carol, "I'll Be Home for Christmas." Its first line, "Iím dreaming tonight of a place I love," is very indicative of the sentiments of this excellent ballad.

"I'll Be Home" is the second most remembered work of poet James Kimball ("Kim") Gannon (1900-1974), from Brooklyn, and musician Walter Kent (1911 - ), from Manhattan. Kent also wrote the music for the 1941 classic "The White Cliffs of Dover," to accompany the lyrics of Nat Burton.

It was also among the most unforgettable recordings featuring the baritone smoothness of Bing Crosby. Due to its very personal yet widely appealing lyrics, and its appropriately tender yet confidently transporting melody, it has lasted many years beyond the distressing war period of separation. Long after the reunions with friends and relatives were over, and the uniforms hung in the back closets, the song has continued to serve as a medium for past holiday reminiscences, and for future nostalgia.

William L. Simon, ed., Readerís Digest Merry Christmas Songbook (1981)

In 1943 the world was at war, and many thousands of American men and women in the service would be spending Christmas far from home. As a special gift to them and their families came this lovely, tender ballad, recorded by Bing Crosby. Just a year earlier, Bing had had a best seller with Irving Berlinís "White Christmas," and his recording of this new song by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent also passed the million-record mark in sales. On December 17, 1965, the Crosby recording became the first "request" that was broadcast into outer space. As astronauts James Lovell and Frank Borman were hurtling back to earth aboard Gemini 7 after their record 206 orbits, a NASA transmitter asked if there was any music they would especially like to hear. Their immediate reply? Bingís "Iíll Be Home For Christmas."

Recording

As performed by Bing Crosby

"I'll Be Home For Christmas" proves that songs need not be complex to stir the affects of the public. This little gem, perfectly suited for Crosby's rolling baritone, is Bing's third most successful Christmas song, behind "White Christmas" and "Silent Night." He recorded it Oct. 4, 1943, backed by the John Scott Trotter Orchestra, and within two months the song was on the charts, where it stayed for 7 weeks, eclipsing "White Christmas." The recording hit the charts again in December 1944 and earned Bing his fifth gold record.

Movies

I'll Be Home For Christmas - Jonathan Taylor Thomas stars as Jake Wilkinson, a self-absorbed college student who, just days before Christmas, awakens to find himself stranded in the middle of the California desert, wearing a Santa suit and a white beard glued to his face. The butt of a payback by the football team, who thinks he double-crossed them by not providing the correct answers to a finals test, Jake has to find a way to get to New York by 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve and catch up with his girlfriend, Allie (Jessica Biel), who is on the road with school stud Eddie (Adam La Vorgna), or risk forfeiting the vintage Porsche his father (Gary Cole) promised if his son comes home for the holidays. As Jake desperately hitchhikes his way east, the people he meets unwittingly set into motion a comedy of errors as they look to Santa for help and advice. Cast: Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Jessica Biel, Adam LaVorgna, Sean O'Bryan, and Gary Cole

Iíll Be Home For Christmas (Drama, 1988). Members of a New England family reunite for the holiday, hoping one will return from World War II. Hal Holbrook, Eva Marie Saint.

Iíll Be Home For Christmas (Drama, 1977) The mayor of St. Nicholas tries to persuade a former beau to stay and be the town doctor. Ann Jullian, Robert Hays.

 

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