Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: What are the lyrics and who wrote the Christmas song?

18 December 2019, 15:08 | Updated: 16 November 2022, 13:51

Picture: Pexels

By Tom Eames

"But do you recall, the most famous reindeer of all?"

It's one of the most famous Christmas songs of all time, but did you know where it came from and can you remember all the lyrics?

Here's all the fascinating facts behind the festive tune:

  1. Who wrote 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer'?

    Johnny Marks in 1977
    Johnny Marks in 1977. Picture: Getty

    It was written by songwriter Johnny Marks, and was based on the 1939 story Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, by Robert Lewis May.

    The story introduced the idea of Santa's 'ninth' and lead reindeer, famous for his nose which lights up red to light the way for the sleigh on Christmas Eve.

    May was Marks's brother-in-law, and so Marks decided to adapt the story of Rudolph into a song in 1949.

    The song also had an added introduction, which paraphrased the poem 'A Visit from Saint Nicholas'.

  2. Who sang it first?

    Gene Autry Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer

    The song was first sung by Harry Brannon on New York City radio in early November 1949.

    Gene Autry was the first to have a hit with it, reaching number one in the US in 1949.

    This was despite the fact that Autry at first rejected it, and it was only meant to be a B-side. His wife managed to convince him to record it.

    In December 2018, Autrey's version re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 at 36, nearly 70 years after it first charted.

  3. Who else recorded it?

    Bing Crosby & Ella Fitzgerald - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

    Many artists have recorded the song over the years, including:

    - Bing Crosby
    - Spike Jones
    - Alvin and the Chipmunks
    - Burl Ives (for the Rudolph film - see below)
    - The Temptations
    - Willie Nelson
    - Ella Fitzgerald
    - Destiny's Child
    - Dean Martin

  4. It spawned a hit TV movie

    Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964) clip

    Also titled Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, a Christmas stop motion animated TV special was made in 1964 and aired on NBC in the US.

    Based largely on the song, it has aired on CBS since 1972 and has become a Christmas staple in America.

    It has been telecast every year since 1964, making it the longest continuously running Christmas TV special in history.

    Entertainer Burl Ives voiced Sam the Snowman in the film, and sang the titular song on the soundtrack.

  5. Who's Olive?

    Olive the Other Reindeer (1999)

    The lyric "All of the other reindeer" is often misheard as "Olive, the other reindeer".

    This has led to the creation of another character, who featured in her own Christmas TV special, Olive, the Other Reindeer in 1999 starring Drew Barrymore.

  6. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer lyrics:

    You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen
    Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen
    But do you recall
    The most famous reindeer of all?

    Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
    Had a very shiny nose
    And if you ever saw it
    You would even say it glows

    All of the other reindeer
    Used to laugh and call him names
    They never let poor Rudolph
    Join in any reindeer games

    Then one foggy Christmas Eve
    Santa came to say
    "Rudolph, with your nose so bright
    Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

    Then how the reindeer loved him
    As they shouted out with glee
    "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
    You'll go down in history"