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Still Dreaming of a 'White Christmas'

In January 1940, Irving Berlin, the most popular songwriter in America, raced into his office and asked his musical secretary to take down a new song. "Not only is it the best song I ever wrote, it's the best song anybody ever wrote," he said. His "White Christmas" was a seasonal, secular hymn that has lasted over half a century.

"Today, we can hardly imagine Christmas without secular Christmas tunes, but really they weren't part of popular music culture until Irving Berlin wrote 'White Christmas'," says Jody Rosen, author of the new book, White Christmas: The Story of an American Song.

Though it has been recorded hundreds of times, the version most people remember is the classic by Bing Crosby. It was first featured in the 1942 film Holiday Inn and later in the 1954 movie White Christmas.

On Morning Edition, NPR's Susan Stamberg reports on the history of the most popular pop song of all time.

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