Holiday Songwriting and the Public Domain!

Merry Christmas

The holidays are a time for family, friends and cheesy TV specials, but it wouldn’t be the same without those trademark Christmas and holiday songs! There are many misconceptions about holiday music, so we’re going to clear up a few here. Songs that are in the public domain are mostly those composed before 1923, and free for use with no royalty payments necessary. This includes, but is not limited to classics such as:

  • Angels We Have Heard On High
  • Auld Lang Syne
  • Away In A Manger
  • Coventry Carol
  • Deck The Halls
  • For Unto Us
  • Go Tell It On The Mountain
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  • Good King Wenceslas
  • Hallelujah Chorus
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • Here We Come A-Caroling (Wassail Song)
  • I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
  • I Saw Three Ships
  • In The Bleak Midwinter
  • It Came Upon The Midnight Clear
  • Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
  • Jingle Bells
  • Jolly Old St. Nicholas
  • Joy To The World
  • O Come All Ye Faithful
  • O Come O Come Emmanuel
  • O Holy Night
  • O Little Town Of Bethlehem
  • Once In Royal David’s City
  • Silent Night The First Noel
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
  • Up On The Housetop
  • We Three Kings
  • We Wish You A Merry Christmas
  • What Child Is This

There are many more, but this is a good starting point. Aside from the songs that are old enough to have entered the public domain, there are some songs that most people believe are in the public domain but really aren’t. This means that either the songwriters or their heirs are owed royalty payments for use of their respective songs. Some modern standards like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” might be obvious, but some less obvious Christmas classics that are still copyrighted are:

  • A Holly Jolly Christmas by Johnny Marks
  • All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth by Donald Yetter Gardner
  • Carol Of The Bells* by Peter J. Wilhousky and Mykola Leontovich (The lyrics are copyrighted, but the music is in the public domain.
  • Do You Hear What I Hear? by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker
  • Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano
  • Frosty The Snowman by Steve Nelson and Walter E. Rollins
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin
  • Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane) by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman
  • I’ll Be Home For Christmas by Walter Kent, Kim Gannon, and Buck Ram
  • It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year by Edward Pola and George Wyle
  • Jingle Bell Rock by Joseph Carleton Beal and James Ross Boothe
  • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne
  • Little Drummer Boy by Katherine K. Davis, Henry V. Onorati, and Harry Simeone
  • Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree by Johnny Marks
  • Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer by Johnny Marks
  • Santa Claus Is Coming To Town by Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie
  • Silver Bells by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
  • Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson and Mitchell Parish
  • The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells
  • White Christmas by Irving Berlin
  • Winter Wonderland by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith

Wishing everyone a happy and safe holiday season, and may you songwriters out there be fortunate enough to have a song become a classic standard enter into the cannon of traditional holiday music!

James Corden Can Sing!

James Corden - When Christmas is Over

James Corden has had quite a year. His first season hosting “The Late Late Show” as a successor of Craig Ferguson was a hit spawning viral videos like “Carpool Karaoke”. With a year of big laughs and witty comedy, it was a pleasant surprise that Corden opted to close his 2015 debut season with a heartfelt, original Christmas ballad. Not a holiday ballad, but a CHRISTMAS ballad. Written by a staff songwriter just hours before the show, the song talks about the post-holiday season and Jesus’ commands to love on another all of the time and not just specific seasons.

“When the lights are unstrung from the rooftop and the mistletoe’s down from the den…when Christmas is over, what then?” –When Christmas is Over by James Corden

Music has been a big part of Corden’s success recently, he starred in 2014’s musical movie “Into The Woods” and his hosting gig with “The Late Late Show” has featured some of the biggest talent, new and established since his debut in March. His viral segments “Carpool Karaoke” follow him carpooling with some of music’s biggest stars in his car driving to work and singing at the top of their lungs.

Kudos, James Corden, for not only a stellar debut season, but for showcasing original music in your debut season’s finale!

Watch his performance here: