The Wenatchee World

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Desert snow and roasting chestnuts

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The Czar was not pleased. Czars were rarely happy, as a quick scan of history would indicate, but one royal fit led a former subject to a desert hotel in California, where he wrote a song about a snowy holiday, recorded by a singer from Tacoma, who moved to Spokane, who was famous because his buddy’s sister was a girl singer from Tekoa with show business connections. Meanwhile, another man who skipped out of Russia during a fit of czarist temper married a woman in Chicago, and their son ended up in California, where he befriended a man from Raymond, Wash., who had left the shores of Willapa Bay for the dry country, where in a baking July heat wave he wrote down a few cooling words, perhaps reminiscent of his damp childhood. The man from Chicago and the man from Raymond turned cool words into another Christmas song, which they called “The Christmas Song,” which was recorded by a singer-pianist from Chicago and became a runaway hit. It made the singer so famous he went on tour, and in an overnight stop in a place called Wenatchee became the first black guest at the luxurious Cascadian Hotel.

This is a long story of Christmas songs written in desert heat by Jewish refugees or their offspring. Bear with me. It comes from various sources, including articles, liner notes, Wikipedia, and even the personal reminiscence of my neighbor Bob, but it must all be true.

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