Let’s be jolly: Brenda Lee makes history as “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” hits #1 for the first time

Disney/Scott Kirkland

Music legend Brenda Lee will turn 79 on December 11, and she’ll have a lot to celebrate: Her classic holiday song “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” has just topped the Billboard Hot 100 for the very first time — 65 years after its release.

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” is now only the third holiday song in history to top the Billboard Hot 100, joining Mariah Carey‘s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and “The Chipmunk Song” by The Chipmunks with David Seville. Written by Johnny Marks, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” was released in 1958, but it only hit the chart in 1960, peaking at #14 that year. Last year and in 2019, it’s climbed as high as #2. 

Lee’s song sets another new record: the longest wait between a song’s release to hitting #1. Mariah previously held the record of 25 years, between her holiday hit’s release in 1994 and its ascent to #1 in 2019.

And finally, Lee is now the oldest woman ever to hit #1 on the chart, surpassing Cher, who was 52 when “Believe” topped the Hot 100. Lee was 13 when she recorded “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” 

This is Lee’s third Billboard Hot 100 #1 hit, following 1960’s “I’m Sorry” and “I Want to Be Wanted.” In the ’60s, she scored 46 Hot 100 hits, the most of any female artist.

And that isn’t the only holiday hit in this week’s top 10. Mariah’s song is #2, Bobby Helms‘ “Jingle Bell Rock” is #3, Wham!‘s “Last Christmas” is #5, Burl Ives‘ “A Holly Jolly Christmas” is #6 and Andy Williams’ “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is #10.

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