“If Decca [Records] can meet the demand, dealers say Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ will be 1942’s top-selling record,” Billboard reported in the Nov. 14, 1942 issue. Talk about an understatement. After topping sales charts that year, Crosby’s version of the holiday classic went on to become the best-selling record ever — 50 million copies globally, according to Guinness World Records.
The song — which Irving Berlin wrote in only 18 minutes — was featured in the film Holiday Inn starring a then-39-year-old Crosby. Released in July 1942 at the height of World War II, the tune’s soothing tones and reflective lyrics struck a chord with consumers. The single sailed to No. 1 on Billboard‘s Best Selling Retail Records chart on Oct. 31, 1942 and spent 11 consecutive weeks there. The following year, it won the Oscar for best original song and returned to the top 10 in every subsequent holiday season through 1949.
Inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1974, “White Christmas” topped the Holiday Airplay chart in 2008 and was the ninth-most-played Christmas song during the 2013 holiday season, according to Nielsen BDS. It’s also the most-covered holiday tune of all time: According to streaming service Slacker Radio, nearly 1,500 acts have recorded it, including Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.