The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree

Words & Music by Johnny Marks, copyright 1958

Recorded by Brenda Lee

William Studwell, The Christmas Carol Reader

With the very notable exception of "O Tannenbaum" ("O Christmas Tree"), there are surprisingly few carols which emphasize the widely shared experience of a decorated Christmas tree. "Du gronne, flitrende tre, god-dag!" ("You Green and Glittering Tree, Good Day!) from Denmark, "Am Weihnachtsbaum die Lichter brennen" ("The Christmas Tree with Its Candles Gleaming") from Germany, and "Christopher the Christmas Tree," "Do You Know How Christmas Trees are Grown?", "Gather Around the Christmas Tree," and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" from the United States also are based on this theme.

Of all these songs, only "Tannenbaum" is especially well known, with "Gather Around" (by John Henry Hopkins [1820-1891], the composer of "We Three Kings of Orient Are") and "Rockin'" (by Johnny Marks [1909-1985]) being of secondary importance.

On top of belonging to the rare breed of Christmas tree carols, "Rockin'," published in 1958, is one of the relatively few good carols written using the medium of rock music. "Jingle Bell Rock" (1957), by Joseph Beal (1900 - ) and James Boothe (1917 - ) is perhaps the only other one of note. The association of "Rockin'" with underpopulated categories, though, is limited to the two aspects indicated above. Its author, Marks, has "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and a number of other songs to his credit, including "A Holly Jolly Christmas" (1962), "Jingle, Jingle, Jingle" (1964), "Silver and Gold" (1964), "The Most Wonderful Day of the Year" (1964), "When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter" (1950), "A Caroling We Go" (1966), a 1952 musical setting for "Twas the Night Before Christmas," and a variant tune for Longfellow's "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." He may well be the most successful American popular composer of all time, possibly even surpassing Irving Berlin and his two Christmas contributions, "Happy Holiday" and "White Christmas.*"

William L. Simon, ed., Reader’s Digest Merry Christmas Songbook (1981)

Johnny Marks was a man of many achievements. His Phi Beta Kappa key represents what his head could do, and such inspiration songs as "Anyone Can Move a Mountain" demonstrate what his heart could do. And his "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is a phenomenon on both levels – and the second most popular Christmas song ever written. "Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree" is another favorite, written by Marks in 1958,when rock ‘n rol was affecting even Christmas music. Brenda Lee’s 1958 recording was a big hit. The scene is the Christmas hop, and the dancing is being done in that "new old-fashioned way."


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