August 1959 was an exceptionally hot month for most of the United States. It greatly amused Dean Martin, as he walked into Capitol Records’ studio, at 1750 North Vine Street, Hollywood, on Thursday, 6 August, to think that he was about to record his own version of the winter song ‘Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!’ on such a hot day.
Martin, whose singing imitated the smooth baritone vocals and phrasing of Bing Crosby, had the perfect voice for festive songs. His version of ‘Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!’, which was cut for the Capitol album A Winter Romance, is the best and most popular adaptation of a song that has become an absolute Christmas classic.
“Why don’t we go to the beach and cool off?”
Fourteen years before Martin went into the studio, the song had been written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne on America’s hottest day of 1945. Lyricist Cahn and composer Styne were two of the greatest songwriters of that golden age of popular music: at his peak, Cahn was reportedly America’s highest-paid songwriter, often earning more than $1,000 a word. He won four Oscars: for ‘Three Coins In The Fountain’, written for the 1954 film of the same title; ‘All the Way’, written for the film The Joker Is Wild; ‘High Hopes’, from A Hole In The Head; and ‘Call Me Irresponsible’, from the film Papa’s Delicate Condition.
All those Academy winners pale in comparison, however, to the long-term success of ‘Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!’, which was penned in sunny California. In the book Songwriters On Songwriting, Cahn recalled how the famous tune came about: “‘Why don’t we go down to the beach and cool off?’ I asked Jule. He said, ‘Why don’t we stay here and write a winter song.’ I went to the typewriter. ‘Oh, the weather outside is frightful/But the fire is so delightful/And since we’ve got no place to go/Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.’ Now why three ‘Let it snow’s? Why not two or four? Because three is lyric.”
“The kind of black joke Dean Martin might have made”
The song was first recorded for RCA Victor in 1945 by Vaughn Monroe, and versions by Woody Herman and Connee Boswell soon followed. But it is Martin’s version, which was arranged by Gus Levene and conducted by Hy Lesnick, that became a festive classic. His 1959 recording is the latest in a series of classic holiday tunes to receive a new music video treatment for the festive season, created in 2019 by animation studio Fantoons.
Carly Simon and Rod Stewart have also recorded successful versions of ‘Let It Snow’; Simon’s 2005 take on the song is unusual in being sung from the point of view of the host instead of the guest. It peaked at No.6 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Stewart, meanwhile, recorded ‘Let It Snow’ on his 2012 album, Merry Christmas, Baby. His version reached No.1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart in December that same year.
Cahn and Styne’s song is so iconic that it can be interpreted in a variety of styles. Among the different takes are those by Kate Rusby (folk), Louie Bellson (jazz), Aaron Neville (soul), Randy Travis (country), Twisted Sister (heavy metal), Jeremih and Chance The Rapper (hip-hop) and Michael Bublé (pop). Martin liked it so much, he re-recorded a version in 1966, as part of The Dean Martin Christmas Album.
It is hard to beat that 1959 version, though. The singer was 78 when he died, on 25 December 1995, of acute respiratory failure, at his home in Beverly Hills. As film director Peter Bogdanovich said: “That Dean Martin died on Christmas Day was the kind of black joke he might have made.” Martin’s spirit lives on, however, and Christmas would not be the same without the famous crooner singing ‘Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!’
Looking for more? Discover the best Christmas songs of all time.