While watching the 876th remake of the first Hallmark “original” Christmas film, I got to thinking about the two men responsible for the modern sound of the holiday season. The first one is obvious. When Irving Berlin sat down and penned White Christmas (somewhere between 1938 and 1941, nobody is really quite sure) he ushered in the flood of the secular Christmas song. While Santa Claus is Coming to Town was released years earlier in 1934, it was Berlin’s wartime ballad of longing, combined with the baritone of Bing Crosby, that propelled the genre to stratospheric heights.
The other would toil away in relative obscurity as a pianist in jazz clubs around his native San Francisco until he penned a modest hit called Cast Your Fate to the Wind which won the 1963 Grammy for Best Original Jazz Composition. Lee Mendelson, an independent television producer who was putting together a documentary on “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz, heard Cast playing on a taxi cab radio. He liked what he heard and tracked the composer down through the jazz critic of the San Francisco Chronicle and asked him to score his film.More