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'Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree' earns Billboard top spot for first time in 65 years

Brenda Lee performs in the music video for 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree' published in November 2023.
Brenda Lee performs in the music video for "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" published in November 2023. | YouTube/Brenda Lee

Six decades after the debut of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," artist Brenda Lee is at the top of the charts, as the singer landed her first Billboard No. 1 hit since 1960.

The 78-year-old artist, who got her start singing gospel music in church, made history last week when Billboard announced that Lee's Christmas single topped its Hot 100 list for the first time, knocking off Mariah Carey's holiday hit "All I Want for Christmas Is You." 

Lee also made history as the oldest recording artist to top the Billboard charts, breaking the record previously held by 62-year-old Louis Armstrong with "Hello, Dolly!" in 1964.

Lee was only 13 when she first recorded "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," written by Johnny Marks and produced by Owen Bradley.

"No way — really?" Lee said while tearing up in an Instagram video following the news of her song making Billboard Hot 100 history. "Mr. Marks would be proud."

"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" reportedly drew 34.9 million streams, while Carey's popular holiday song earned 34.2 million.

"I wanted to do it, and we did," Lee said in an interview with CMT. "It just came out every year and became what it was. The people were great. They went out, they bought it, they embraced it. Radio embraced it, and 'Home Alone,' of course, didn't hurt it at all. And it's just been a magical time in my life."

Staffers from Billboard shared their reactions to Lee's achievement. 

"It was the most likely non-Mariah Christmas song to get to No. 1 next so it felt inevitable. But, I also wouldn't have been surprised if Mariah had just never ceded the top spot every December from here for years to come," Billboard editor Katie Atkinson wrote. 

"But, I love that this opens up the possibility of a revolving door of holidays hits that shift places in and out of the top spots every year."

Billboard Executive Director of Music Jason Lipshutz said it is surprising to see "All I Want for Christmas is You" get passed on the charts, even for one week. 

"I would have expected a newer Christmas song to become the next non-Mariah holiday single to top the Hot 100; instead, we have Brenda Lee's 65-year-old standard getting over the hump," he wrote. "This is as improbable as chart feats get." 

Atkinson suggested that when it comes to Carey's Christmas song versus Lee's holiday tune, some fans might be tired of "All I Want for Christmas is You" being at the top year after year. 

"Mariah has the recent track record, but Brenda Lee has a 30-year head start on Christmas nostalgia. There's also the possibility of fa-la-la-fatigue (sorry) for 'All I Want for Christmas.' I have no doubt it will go back to No. 1 at some point, but it's nice to give Brenda her moment," she wrote. 

Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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