"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is a song introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 MGM musical Meet Me in St. Louis. Frank Sinatra later recorded a version with modified lyrics, which has become more common than the original. The song was credited to Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, although during a December 21, 2006 NPR interview, Martin said that Blane had encouraged him to write the song but had not had anything more to do with writing it. In 2007, ASCAP ranked "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" the third most performed Christmas song written by ASCAP members of the past five years.
The song was written while Martin was vacationing in a house in Birmingham, Alabama, that his father Hugh Martin designed for his mother as a honeymoon cottage. The house was located in the Southside section of the city, across the street from Hugh's mother and right beside her aunt. The song first appeared in a scene in Meet Me in St. Louis, in which a family is distraught by the father's plans to move to New York City for a job promotion, leaving behind their beloved home in St. Louis, Missouri just before the long-anticipated Louisiana Purchase Exposition begins. In a scene set on Christmas Eve, Judy Garland's character, Esther, sings the song to cheer up her despondent five-year-old sister, Tootie, played by Margaret O'Brien.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your
Next year we may all be living in the past
Have yourself a merry little Christmas, pop that champagne cork,
Next year we will all be living in New York.
No good times like the olden days, happy golden days of
Faithful friends who were dear to us, will be near to us no more.
But at least we all will be together, if the Fates
From now on we'll have to muddle through somehow.
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
Though he initially resisted, songwriter Hugh Martin made several changes to make the song more upbeat. For example, the lines "It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past" became "Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight". Garland's version of the song, which was also released as a single by Decca Records, became popular among United States troops serving in World War II; her performance at the Hollywood Canteen brought many soldiers to tears.
In 1957, Frank Sinatra asked Martin to revise the line "Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow". He told Martin, "The name of my album is A Jolly Christmas. Do you think you could jolly up that line for me?" Martin's new line, "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough," has since become more widely recognized and sung than the original phrase. Martin made several other alterations, changing the song's focus to a celebration of present happiness, rather than anticipation of a better future.
Although the 1957 rewrite is the most familiar to listeners today, the Judy Garland lyrics have been recorded by a number of artists, for example Ella Fitzgerald (in Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas), and James Taylor. Quiet Company recorded the song most recently for the 2007 release of Peace on Earth: A Holiday Album. The album was made available for download directly from the web. All proceeds from sales went to Toys for Tots charity.
In 2002, Newsong lead singer Michael O'Brien noted the line "through the years, we all will be together if the Lord allows," which was part of the original song, was purged and replaced with "if the fates allow" to remove religious reference when the song was released. He noted while a pastor in a California church in 1990, he had met Martin, who played piano at the church where O'Brien was serving for an evening, and the pastor was told, "That's the original way I wrote it, so I want you to sing it this way." 
In 2001 the 86-year-old composer Hugh Martin, occasionally active as a pianist with religious ministries since the 1980s, wrote an entirely new set of lyrics to the song with John Fricke, "Have Yourself a Blessed Little Christmas", a religious version of the secular Christmas standard. The song was recorded by gospel female vocalist Del Delker with Martin accompanying her on piano.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is an extremely popular Christmas song that is played every holiday season. The words were written by Ralph Blane and the music by Hugh Martin in 1943. The song was first introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 movie, Meet Me In St. Louis. A modified version was introduced by Frank Sinatra who felt the original was too sad for his 1957 album, A Jolly Christmas. It has also been recorded by many other performers including Christine Aguilera, Demi Lovato and the Pretenders. In 2007 ASCAP listed the song at number three in the 25 most played holiday songs.