The best-selling record of all time is a deceptively simple 15-line song about longing for home, writes Roy J. Harris for the Wall Street Journal, in a look at how the Bing Crosby-crooned, Irving Berlin-penned "White Christmas" has managed to sell an estimated 100 million copies over the last 67 years. The song’s runaway popularity in WWII coincided with America’s entry into the Pacific war, notes Harris, capturing soldiers' longing for home. That period also marked a broadcast shift from live to recorded music; radio DJs played the song over and over, fueling demand.
At the time, Carl Sandburg noted that the song, which was first introduced in the movie Holiday Inn, showed a new American mood: “We have learned to be a little sad and a little lonesome. When we sing that song we don't hate anybody." Berlin, who was reportedly so worried about how the song was being used in the film that he hid behind a set, spying on Crosby as he sang it, was a little less modest in explaining the song’s success, "it’s the best song I ever wrote, it's the best song anybody ever wrote."