Brenda Lee was just 13 years old when she recorded the song “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” Shortly before, the girl, who was born in the US metropolis of Atlanta in the state of Georgia in 1944, had signed her first record contract after appearing on radio shows and talent competitions for several years. The songwriter Johnny Marks, who died in 1985 and who previously came up with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “A Holly Jolly Christmas”, is said to have specifically wanted little Lee to record his new Christmas song.

This year the song, released in 1958, turns 65 years old, singer Lee turns 79 on Monday (December 11th) – and now “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” has made it to the top of the US charts for the first time. The rocking Christmas song, which has also been sung by stars such as Kim Wilde, Cyndi Lauper, LeAnn Rimes, Justin Bieber and Kelly Clarkson, has made it into the US charts time and again over the past 65 years, including in the past four years up to second place, but now up to first for the first time since its release.

The song was most recently at number nine in the German charts. It achieved its highest ranking so far with fourth place in the week before Christmas in 2022.

Recorded a music video for the first time

This year, in the USA, it may have helped that Lee recorded a video for the first time on the occasion of the song’s 65th birthday – which then went viral. In it you can see the old lady in a red robe swaying next to a festively decorated Christmas tree. Lee also published a video via Instagram showing how she found out that her song was now at the top of the charts. “That’s wonderful, wow,” says the musician, wiping tears from her eyes. “All these years. Mr. Marks would be proud.”

Lee also set records with her chart success: the longest span between the release of a song and reaching the top of the charts and she is now officially the oldest woman with a number one hit in the history of the US Billboard charts.

However, it is not her first jump to the top of the charts: she had already achieved this in the 1960s with “I’m Sorry” and “I Want to Be Wanted”. In total, Lee, who has been married for 60 years and has two children, brought almost 50 songs into the top 100 in the 1960s. She sold more than 100 million albums, received awards such as Grammys and was inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame as well as country music.

How did Brenda Lee start her career?

In Germany she appeared in the opening act for the Beatles. Lee comes from a poor background and was able to use her success to help support her family. In the 80s things slowly became quieter for Lee, but every now and then she released a new album or a new song.

In recent years, the undisputed “Queen of Christmas” has always been Mariah Carey. “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, the 54-year-old’s hit hit, first released in 1994, made it to the top of the charts for the first time in 2019 and again every year until 2022. In Germany, Carey jumped back to the top of the charts again this year on Friday (December 8th) – for the fifth year in a row, a total of the Christmas pop hit’s 14th number-one week.

In the USA, Carey is currently in second place, with more than half of the top ten being Christmas songs. This year, however, Lee surprisingly established herself as the “Queen of Christmas” with “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – and Carey promptly sent her flowers for it, as Lee made public in an Instagram photo. “Dearest Ms. Brenda, congratulations on your historic number 1. Have a wonderful Christmas. With love, Mariah,” the accompanying card said – and Lee sent Christmas greetings back via Instagram.

Report by NPR Report by ABC Report by Billboard Lee on Instagram Brenda Lee in the German charts