“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” remains one of the most beloved Christmas songs of all times, and it gives more to St. Lawrence University than just a special holiday feeling.
Written by J. Kimball “Kim” Gannon, a 1924 graduate of St. Lawrence, along with Walter Kent and Buck Ram, the song was popularized by Bing Crosby in 1943 and became a top-10 hit. Recorded by Decca Records, the song touched a tender place in the hearts of Americans while it was embroiled in World War II, and it earned Crosby his fifth gold record. Because of its personal yet widely appealing lyrics, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” has lasted well beyond the tumultuous period of war and separation.
Since its debut, more than 250 artists and groups have recorded “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” including Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, Ann Murray, and Michael Bublé. Last year, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) named “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” the 10th most-performed holiday song of the century.
Born in Brooklyn in 1900, Gannon went on to write a number of popular songs during the swing era. He also penned St. Lawrence’s alma mater, "Alma Mater." Campus lore has it that he wrote in the fall of his senior year on his landlady’s piano.
Gannon went on to a successful career as a lyricist, with some 200 popular songs to his name and three Academy Award nominations. Some of his more popular tunes include big-band standards “Moonlight Cocktail,” recorded in 1942 by Glenn Miller; “A Dreamer’s Holiday,” recorded in 1949 by Perry Como; and “I Understand,” recorded at different times by Nat King Cole, Dave Brubeck and Jimmy Dorsey.
When he died in 1974, his will stipulated that St. Lawrence would receive 30 percent of the royalties from his compositions after his wife’s death. His widow, Norma Allen Gannon, St. Lawrence Class of 1925, passed away in 2000.
Since then, the University has received a monthly check (and will for about the next three decades), representing the royalties paid each time one of Gannon’s songs is performed, used in a movie or television program, or even when one is played on an airplane’s sound system. This year alone, St. Lawrence has earned nearly $25,000 from Gannon’s music. And since September 2000, the University has received more than $434,800 in royalties.
The song title inspired the 1998 film I'll Be Home For Christmas, which followed two made-for-TV movies in 1988 and 1997. All of them featured the familiar tune on their soundtracks.
On Dec. 17, 1965, a NASA transmitter asked astronauts James Lovell and Frank Borman, who were aboard Gemini 7 setting a record number of orbits around earth, if they’d like to hear any music. Their reply was a request for “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”