For decades, Martin’s music has been the soundtrack to the holiday season.
It’s been 56 years since iconic Italian American crooner Dean Martin released The Dean Martin Christmas Album. Since then, Martin’s music has become as synonymous with the holiday season as Christmas trees and presents. It’s the gold standard to which all other Christmas albums are compared. Never once has it been surpassed.
The Dean Martin Christmas Album was released at the height of a public Dean Martin frenzy: it was the fourth album that Martin had released in 1966, and the album made its debut on The Dean Martin TV Show. In just one month, the record sold almost 1M copies. While the folks at Reprise Records knew that they had a hit on their hands, no one could have predicted how The Dean Martin Christmas Album would go on to become a cultural cornerstone: that, every year after, it would be impossible to turn on the radio in December and not hear Martin’s velvety voice serenading us all through a winter wonderland.
Martin could sing the phone book (or, in today’s age, your Twitter feed) and it would be compelling. Still, there is much to be said for the artful selection of songs on The Dean Martin Christmas Album. Martin took on holiday classics like “Winter Wonderland” and “White Christmas,” and paired them with light-hearted favorites like “Jingle Bells” and “Silver Bells.” The result was a perfect balance of both the nostalgic and jovial elements of the holiday season. Furthermore, the room was made on the record for more complex feelings, like longing and reverence. Martin’s rendition of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” is full of bittersweet yearning, while his take on “Silent Night” feels just as holy as the song’s subject matter.
The ten tracks that make up The Dean Martin Christmas Album capture the full, authentic experience of the holiday season for all its joy, wonder, and pain, which is perhaps why we collectively turn to this album year after year. Of course, though, there’s something more to it than just our desire to hear our experiences mirrored back to us. Martin’s voice has the soothing effect of a warm, mittened hand holding on to ours. Whether we approach Christmas with the hope and glee of a child or the sorrow of an adult longing for home, we always have Martin to keep us company.
Therein lies the magic of The Dean Martin Christmas Album.
Click here to listen to the Dean Martin Christmas Album on Spotify now.
Natalli Marie Amato
Natalli Amato is a music and lifestyle journalist from Sackets Harbor, New York. Her bylines include Rolling Stone, Vice, and The Boot. She is also the author of several collections of poetry.