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"Jingle Bells" - James Lord Pierpont

History of an American Folk Song


Christmas wreath

Christmas wreath

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History of "Jingle Bells"

"Jingle Bells" (purchase/download was written by James Lord Pierpont in 1857, and was originally titled "One Horse Open Sleigh." Although the exact history of the song is debatable, there is a plaque commemorating the "Birthplace of 'Jingle Bells'" in Medford, Mass., as well as a claim in Savannah, Ga., that the song was composed there when Pierpont was serving as pastor at a local church.

Popularity of "Jingle Bells"

Regardless of where it was written, "Jingle Bells" was definitely the first song in space, when astronauts played it on a harmonica and bells in 1965. It's one of the 25 most recorded songs in history.

"Jingle Bells" lyrics

Like so many popular folk songs, the lyrics typically learned and sung by children and adults don't include the entire lyrics of the song. As is typical, most folks only know one or two verses—and, of course, the catchy, repetitive chorus.

The verses of "Jingle Bells" talk about embarrassment (falling on one's back and being laughed at by a man in a sleigh, for example), liberation, and picking up girls. The final, little known verse is:

Now the ground is white
Go it while you’re young,
Take the girls to night
And sing this sleighing song;
Just get a bob tailed bay
Two forty as his speed.
Hitch him to an open sleigh
And crack, you’ll take the lead.

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