15. "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," Judy GarlandDecca DA-3360 (78) b/w "The Boy Next Door"
Highest chart position: #2 US (1945)
Recorded April 20, 1944, Hollywood, CA
During World War II, the Christmas holiday became a totem of sorts for homesick sailors thousands of miles from their homeland, shivering in a foxhole. So there are several Christmas classics from this period that seek to keep the home fires burning, as it were, most notably two Bing Crosby perennials: "I'll Be Home For Christmas" ("if only in my dreams") and, natch, Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" (originally written about a snowless holiday in Los Angeles, but never you mind). Most potentially depressing of them all -- and therefore most poignant -- is this song, first popularized by Judy in the 1943 film Meet Me In St. Louis. The first couplet, which follows the title with the line "It may be your last," was loathed by Garland, especially seeing as how she was singing it to a little girl in the film. It was since changed to "Let your heart be light." Much later, Frank Sinatra persuaded the songwriter to change the second-to-last line, "Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow," to "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough." But that second change was probably unnecessary; the real message of the song is that Christmas comes and goes whether things are perfect or horrible, and so you may as well enjoy the holiday while you have it. (In fact, James Taylor's version, featuring the original "muddled" lyrics, got lots of airplay the Christmas after the 9/11 attacks.)