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Brenda Lee Hits #1 At 78: ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ Tops Charts 65 Years After Its Release, Smashing Records

Can there be any lingering doubt about who truly holds the Queen of Christmas crown? Brenda Lee has returned to the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” 65 years after the song’s 1958 recording.

The chart-topper sees the singer once known as Little Miss Dynamite breaking at least several Billboard records, including the longest wait between a song’s release and reaching #1, and the longest span between an artist’s #1 hits. At 78, Lee becomes the oldest person to ever top the chart, a record previously held by Louis Armstrong, who was 62 when “Hello, Dolly” peaked in 1964.

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Just 13 when she recorded what would become one of the most beloved and enduring holiday classics, Lee has been celebrating the song’s 65th anniversary with a flurry of activity: Last month she appeared in the song’s first-ever video, featuring cameos by country stars Tanya Tucker and Trisha Yearwood (see it above); and she’s scheduled to perform the rockin’ tune on NBC’s Christmas at the Opry airing Dec. 7.

Oh, and she joined Tik Tok, where she’s been introducing that “sentimental feeling” about a “Christmas party hop” to a whole new generation of listeners.

In its announcement today, Deadline’s sister publication Billboard traced the stats and history of the song written by Johnny Marks and produced by Nashville’s legendary Owen Bradley. Though recorded and released in 1958, the song didn’t hit the Hot 100 until 1960, when it peaked at #14. “Rockin'” made it to the #2 spot over the years – in 2019 and 2022 – but never went to the top until now.

With the song’s current peak, Lee can boast of having just the third holiday song to hit #1 (the other two are 1958’s “The Chipmunk Song” by The Chipmunks with David Seville and Mariah Carey’s 1994 seasonal chart perennial “All I Want for Christmas Is You”).

The song is Lee’s third Hot 100 #1, following two 1960 hits “I’m Sorry” and “I Want To Be Wanted.”

With this week’s top spot, Lee sets the following chart records, according to Billboard:

  • Longest run to #1. Writes Billboard’s Gary Trust: “Lee’s ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ shatters the record for the longest wait from a song’s release – 65 years – to it hitting No. 1 on the Hot 100. It surpasses the 25-year gap between the release of Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ in 1994 and its rise to No. 1 in 2019”;

  • Longest span of #1s. “Lee additionally rewrites the record for the longest span of an artist topping the Hot 100: 63 years, four months and three weeks, from her first week at No. 1 with ‘I’m Sorry’ (July 18, 1960) through the latest list. She supplants Carey, whose span of leaders stretches 32 years and five months, from her first week in charge (Aug. 4, 1990) with her debut single ‘Vision of Love’ through the most recent week on top for ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ last holiday season”;

  • Longest break between #1s: “Making more history,” Billboard writes, “Lee marks the longest break between Hot 100 No. 1s: 63 years, one month and two weeks between ‘I Want To Be Wanted’ (Oct. 24, 1960) and ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree'”;

  • Oldest #1 artist: “Lee is 78 years young; her new Hot 100 coronation will add to her birthday celebration Dec. 11,” says Billboard. “She becomes the senior-most artist to top the chart, surpassing Louis Armstrong, who was 62 when ‘Hello, Dolly!’ led in 1964. Among women, Lee passes the likewise busy Cher, who was 52 when ‘Believe’ ruled the Hot 100.”

Cher, meanwhile, had some good holiday news of her own: “DJ Play a Christmas Song,” from her first-ever holiday album Christmas, is #1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary radio airplay chart.

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