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News Archive: 2017

“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” Is Most-Played Holiday Song of the Last 50 Years
Posted January 3, 2017

Gene Autry is a member of ASCAP as both a songwriter and music publisher. ASCAP annually writes about the popularity of Christmas songs written, performed, or published by their members. This article from November 2016, discusses the popularity of the song "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." Not mentioned in the article is that Gene Autry also recorded this song in 1957 for the album "Christmastime with Gene Autry" on his own Challenge record label.

We've noted all the songs performed by Gene Autry – released on record or sung on his Melody Ranch radio show – with a star on the ASCAP Top Holiday Songs Chart.

NEW YORK, Nov. 21, 2016 – At this time of year, twinkling lights and the scent of mulled spices and pine unleash a flood of fond memories. But no holiday tradition brings us back like a classic holiday song. These seasonal standards hark back to simpler times, and are the most enduring harbingers of the holiday season. Of all the season's tunes, the one song listeners have heard more than any other in the last half century reminds us of another holiday staple: Santa Claus.

Cumulative data since 1966 shows that "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," written by American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) songwriters Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie and copyrighted in 1934, is the most played holiday song of the last 50 years.

In fact, ASCAP data shows that the classics still dominate the holiday charts. Among the top songs written or co-written by members of ASCAP include "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!," "Winter Wonderland," "Sleigh Ride" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams commented: "The world may have changed profoundly over the last 50 years, but these songs have been part of the holiday spirit for generations. Part of the wonder of music is how it helps us continue to create real memories and traditions. These treasured songs are very special to so many people and are a beloved part of ASCAP's repertoire."

"Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" was first performed live by singer and comedy performer, Eddie Cantor, on his radio show, and recorded by banjoist Harry Reser and his Orchestra in 1934 when it topped the sheet music charts. The lyrics encouraged children hoping to get a visit from Santa Claus to behave well, and struck fear in the hearts of little mischief-makers everywhere since Santa "sees you when you're sleeping" and "knows when you're awake."

In 1935, popular music icons began their love affair with "Santa Claus" when Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra recorded their version. Since then, artists as varied as Frank Sinatra, The Supremes, The Jackson 5, The Beach Boys, The Carpenters, Dolly Parton, Neil Diamond, Glenn Campbell, George Strait and Andrea Bocelli have interpreted the song for each generation. In 1970, Rankin/Bass produced a television special Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town featuring legendary performer, Fred Astaire, as the narrator. Bruce Springsteen's rendition gave it a rock rebirth in 1975.

Despite the dominance of traditional tunes on the holiday charts, a few new songs have become a part of the season's canon. They include "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" by Walter Afanasieff and Mariah Carey, and "Last Christmas" by George Michael.

The top thirty most-played holiday songs for the recent holiday season are listed below, all written or co-written by ASCAP songwriters and composers. Each song includes songwriter credits and where available, date copyrighted.

ASCAP Top Holiday Songs Chart

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (1934)
Written by Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie
2. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (1943)
Written by Ralph Blaine and Hugh Martin
3. Winter Wonderland (1934)
Written by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith
4. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (1945)
Written by Sammy Chan and Jule Styne
5. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting...) (1945)
Written by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells
6. Jingle Bell Rock (1957)
Written by Joseph Carleton Beal and James Ross Boothe
7. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (1963)
Written by Edward Pola and George Wyle
8. Sleigh Ride (1950)
Written by Leroy Anderson and Mitchell Parish
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1949)
Written by Johnny Marks
10. It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (1951)
Written by Meredith Wilson
White Christmas (1940)
Written by Irving Berlin
12. Have a Holly Jolly Christmas (1962)
Written by Johnny Marks
13. Carol of the Bells (1936)
Written by Mykola Leontovych and Peter Wilhousky
14. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree (1958)
Written by Johnny Marks
15. All I Want for Christmas Is You
Written by Walter Afanasieff and Mariah Carey
Frosty the Snowman (1950)
Written by Steve Nelson and Walter E. Rollins
17. Blue Christmas (1948)
Written by Billy Hayes and Jay Johnson
18. Home for the Holidays (1954)
Written by Robert Allen and Al Stillman
19. Little Drummer Boy (1958)
Written by Katherine Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone
20. Do You Hear What I Hear (1962)
Written by Gloria Shayne Baker and Noël Regney
21. Silver Bells (1962)
Written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston
22. Baby, It's Cold Outside (1948)
Written by Frank Loesser
23. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (1952)
Written by Tommy Connor
24. Feliz Navidad (1970)
Written by Jose Feliciano
25. Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)
Written by Robert Kinkel, Paul O'Neill and John Oliva
26. Last Christmas
Written by George Michael
Here Comes Santa Claus (1947)
Written by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman
28. Santa Baby (1953)
Written by Joan Javits, Philip Springer and Tony Springer
29. Happy Holiday (From Holiday Inn) (1948)
Written by Irving Berlin
30. Wonderful Christmastime
Written by Paul McCartney

Note: The list above represents an aggregation of performances of all different artist versions of each cited holiday song, across all forms of media, from 1/1/15 through 12/31/15.


The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) is a professional membership organization of songwriters, composers and music publishers of every kind of music. ASCAP's mission is to license and promote the music of its members and foreign affiliates, obtain fair compensation for the public performance of their works and to distribute the royalties that it collects based upon those performances. ASCAP members write the world's best-loved music and ASCAP has pioneered the efficient licensing of that music to hundreds of thousands of enterprises who use it to add value to their business - from bars, restaurants and retail, to radio, TV and cable, to Internet, mobile services and more. The ASCAP license offers an efficient solution for businesses to legally perform ASCAP music while respecting the right of songwriters and composers to be paid fairly. With 600,000 members representing more than 10 million copyrighted works, ASCAP is the worldwide leader in performance royalties, service and advocacy for songwriters and composers, and the only American performing rights organization (PRO) owned and governed by its writer and publisher members. Learn more and stay in touch at, on Twitter @ASCAP and on Facebook.

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