Dec 4, 2023 - Business

Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" gets Billboard No. 1

Brenda Lee waving.

Photo: Scott Kirkland/Disney via Getty Images

Sixty-five years after Brenda Lee recorded "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," it has finally reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

  • The song, which she recorded at age 13, is a regular fixture on the chart this time of year, but until now it has always stalled out at No. 2.

Driving the news: It was a tight race with Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You," which usually claims the top spot during the holiday season. But a surge in streaming gave Lee the edge this time.

What she's saying: Lee was overcome with emotion when she learned of her latest career accomplishment. Universal Music Group Nashville chair and CEO Cindy Mabe shared the news, appropriately enough, while the pair sat around a Christmas tree.

  • "That's fabulous. Wow," Lee said, dabbing away tears.
  • "All these years. Mr. Marks would be proud," she added, referencing the songwriter Johnny Marks.

Zoom in: The Hot 100 measures streaming, sales and radio play to determine the biggest hits across all genres.

  • "Rockin'" logged 34.9 million streams during the tracking week, per Billboard. It topped Billboard's streaming chart as well.

The intrigue: Lee's latest No. 1 is record-setting.

  • At 78, she is the oldest artist ever to reign supreme on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • She also breaks Carey's record for the longest span between first and most recent No. 1s. Lee first reached the top spot 63 years ago in 1960 with "I'm Sorry."
  • "Rockin'" is now the song that had to wait the longest to get to No. 1, too.

Between the lines: Lee's rise to the top spot was powered by a reinvigorated promotional push that included a new music video and a series of high-profile interviews. Lee also started a TikTok account to promote the song and share tidbits from throughout her career.

The big picture: The Music Row establishment rallied behind her as she vied for No. 1. Tanya Tucker and Trisha Yearwood appeared in her music video, and Dolly Parton cheered her on in a video message.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to add details and comments from Brenda Lee.

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