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“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a holiday standard, but it almost didn’t make the cut for Meet Me in St. Louis.
Composer Hugh Martin said, “I found a little madrigal-like tune that I liked but couldn't make work, so I played with it for two or three days and then threw it in the wastebasket.”
Thankfully, lyricist Ralph Blane heard Martin playing what would become “…Merry Little Christmas” and inquired about it. They quickly found it in the trash and worked it out from there.
However, once written the song still wasn’t quite right.
Some of the original lyrics were:
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last
Next year we may all be living in the past
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us no more.
While the lyrics matched the sad moment in the story, they didn't quite capture the tone that was needed.
Martin said, “Judy Garland listened to it and said, ‘I love the melody, but that lyric? If I sing that to little Margaret O'Brien, people will think I’m a monster.’”
Nevertheless, Martin wouldn’t budge. That is until Tom Drake, aka Judy’s “boy next door”, stepped in.
Martin remembered, “He said, ‘You’re gonna foul up your life if you don’t write another verse of that song!”’
Thankfully, the lyrics were rewritten, and a Christmas classic was born.
Remembering the original lyrics, Martin said, “It was so awful!”