Brenda Lee never thought “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” would be the signature song that people would remember her for. She originally recorded it in 1958 when she was only 14 years old, but it didn’t become popular until it was featured in the 1990 Home Alone movie. She was sitting at home when her friend called and told her the song was in the movie and was now playing everywhere. Before then, it had just sat around for a while, and she thinks it’s weird that a movie made it popular, but she is grateful for the success. The song was written by Johnny Marks, who wrote many of the holiday standards, and has been certified 5x platinum.
Her song “I’m Sorry,” which she also recorded when she was 14, she thought would be her most popular song, and is happy to see it’s gone viral on TikTok in recent years. Lee never took singing lessons or practiced; it came naturally to her. She came from a very poor background and started singing around the country when she was 7 and was thrilled to get paid for doing something she loved. She would travel the country with her mother in the car and would sleep in the back seat on the back dashboard by the window. At 14, she started getting pitched great songs and said it was never hard to sing them and she never considered it work because she loved what she was doing. She thinks a lot of people in the music industry don’t love what they are doing, they just like the money, and that’s why they burn out quickly. She never experienced that and still loves to sing to this day.
Lee was playing shows in Las Vegas when she was 12 years old, but her mother shielded her from the ugly side of show business. She never saw partying, drinking or drugs, because her mother would be waiting for her at the end of the stage and take her away from it all once, she was done performing. Her mother was one of her major influences on who she is today, and she doesn’t know who or what she would be without her mother. Lee loved old Vegas because all the good acts played there, and it seemed like the place to be at the time. She recalled meeting Little Richard and said he was crazy in a good way and very sweet and supported a lot of people. His show was one of the most exciting to this day she’d ever seen. Lee and Patsy Cline were best friends. Cline talked to her about show business and taught her a lot on how to deal with people in a good way. When Cline’s plane went down it almost happened in Lee’s back yard. It broke her heart because she loved her for her goodness and kindness, and Lee is still close to her children.
Last month, Lee released a new EP, A Rockin’ Christmas with Brenda Lee, to celebrate the 65th anniversary of her classic signature holiday hit, along with other holiday favorites including “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” and more. She shared that she still makes good money from her Christmas song, but that her husband is the breadwinner in the family. He makes sure the royalties are right and he owns his own Mill Company. They have two daughters together, three grandchildren and one great grandchild. Lee is in the Country and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which shows her versatility as an artist. She can also sing in multiple different languages when she goes on International tour and in Japan had a hit song called “One Rainy Night in Tokyo,” that she can sing in perfect Japanese.
Lee will perform “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” on the upcoming NBC television special Christmas at the Opry, which airs Thursday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. ET and streams next day on Peacock.