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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Incredible Brenda Lee back at No. 1 with historic holiday hit

This holiday season, it’s time to party like it’s 1958.

That was the year that Brenda Lee, 13, released her all-time Christmas classic, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”

In 2023, Brenda Lee can still rock the tree. This month, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Charts.

Brenda Lee still rocking around the Christmas tree
Brenda Lee still rocking around the Christmas tree.

Sixty-five years after Lee released the record, it is now the most popular song in the country. It set a record for the length of time after a song was released to hit the No. 1 spot.  “Little Miss Dynamite” – as Lee was called due to her 4-feet 9-inch stature – is bigger than ever.

Billboard reported on the milestone this way:
“Lee’s No. 1 is, indeed, a historic one…. The past four Christmases, the song had peaked at the No. 2 spot behind Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You.’ (Now) Carey’s Christmas classic sits one spot behind at No. 2.”

Mariah Carey wasn’t upset, in fact, she seemed delighted when she sent Lee flowers and a card that read:
“Dearest Ms. Brenda, congratulations on your historic No. 1. Have a Merry Christmas. Love, Mariah.”
Dolly Parton also offered holiday greetings.
“I want to join you in celebrating the 65th anniversary of your classic hit…” Parton stated on Instagram. “You and I have been friends for so many years. This year, I will be rocking around my own Christmas tree…”
“DJ” Al Brady of WVLG radio in The Villages is not surprised by the song’s multi-generational popularity and staying power. It all started a long time ago.

“It was one of the first rock and roll songs that resonated with parents and the kids who were buying rock and roll records,” Brady said. “And it also played well in country music, where her musical roots were derived.”

She released a new video for the song (with a little help from Trisha Yearwood and Tanya Tucker). By the way, the song’s video has nearly 6 million views on YouTube in the past few weeks:

Lee, 78, was a pioneer, becoming one of the first female stars at the dawn of rock and roll. Her hits ranged from the classic ballad, “I’m Sorry,” to the hard rocking “Sweet Nothin’s.”
The lady has sold over 100 million records. She was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Country Music Hall of Fame.

Still, it was a surprise that “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” would become her musical identity to millions of people, many born long after the record was made.

Brenda Lee was 13 when Rocking Around the Christmas Tree was released in 1958
Brenda Lee was 13 when “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” was released in 1958.

“I would’ve never thought in my wildest dreams that ‘Rockin’’ would be my signature song,” Lee recently told the New York Times.

Lee then told Billboard how the song – written by Johnny Marks—was recorded in Nashville.

“The producer cut the air way down in the studio. He had a big Christmas tree and everyone was there — the Anita Kerr Singers and the A-team [of top Nashville studio musicians], as we called them.
“It was like a little touch of magic kind of sprinkled in, and it turned out to be magic. It really did.”

 Marks – who died in 1985 –had written such holiday classics as “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “A Holly Jolly Christmas.” He wrote “Rockin’,” with Lee in mind for the song, as she told Billboard:

“He was such a gentle soul. He was Jewish and didn’t even believe in Christmas, and all that would come out of him was Christmas music.
“He told me he was laying on the beach in New York and I guess he took a nap or something and when he woke up, he saw the pine trees were kind of swaying.
“I said, ‘You got pine trees on the beach in New York?’ He said, ‘Yeah and I thought the pine trees are rocking and he went home and came up with ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.’”

Lee has always been admired by singers, including Elvis and the Beatles.
Lee met Elvis when she was 12.

“I’m never star-struck by anyone, and I’ve met the biggest,” she told the Times. “But I was tongue-tied when I met him.”
Lee used to hang out with John Lennon when the Beatles opened for her on the band’s early tours in England. Lennon told Rolling Stone that “she has the greatest rock ’n’ roll voice of them all.”

Lee turns 79 on Dec. 11 but is still -to quote one of her hit records – “coming on strong.”

Tony Violanti covers music and entertainment for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into The Buffalo Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist.

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