"Silver Bells" is a classic Christmas song written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. The lyrics are unusual for one in that they describe the holiday in the city and not a rural setting, as it was inspired by the imagery of Salvation Army bell ringers standing outside department stores during the Christmas season.
The song was first performed by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in the motion picture The Lemon Drop Kid, filmed in July-August 1950 but released in March 1951. The first recorded version was by Bing Crosby and Carol Richards, released in October 1950. After it became popular, Hope and Maxwell were called back in the late 1950 to refilm a more elaborate production of it, and would later become a holiday tradition (as much as Hope's regular theme "Thanks for the Memories") to sing it with a female performer on his annual Christmas TV specials.
The song started out as the questionable "Tinkle Bells". Said Evans, "We never thought that tinkle had a double meaning until Jay went home and his [first] wife said, 'Are you out of your mind? Do you know what the word tinkle is?'" (The word is a child's slang for urination.)
City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style
In the air there's a
feeling of Christmas
Children laughing, people passing
meeting smile after smile
And on every street
corner you'll hear
It's Christmas time in the city
Ring a ling
hear them ring
Soon it will be Christmas Day
Strings of street lights, even stop lights
Blink a bright red and green
As the shoppers rush
home with their treasures
Hear the snow crunch, see the kids bunch
this is Santa's big scene
And above all this
bustle you'll hear
Appearences in Christmas specials
- The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)
- The Polar Express (2004) - Part of the song is heard on the background in one scene, but when "Ring a ling" on the chorus is heard, the song's record starts repeating on those lyrics, which is referred as "Crainaling".
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