Behind the Song: Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep

Count Your Blessings {Instead of Sheep} was the last hit for the popular composer Irving Berlin.

The song was written sometime around 1952. Irving Berlin tells the story best:

In the book The Irving Berlin Reader, a letter from Irving Berlin to Joseph Schenck and dated September 1952 includes the counting sheepfollowing information about the writing of the song.

“I’m enclosing a lyric of a song I finished here and which I am going to publish immediately…You have always said that I commercial my emotions and many times you were wrong, but this particular song is based on what really happened.

The story is in its verse, which I don’t think I’ll publish.  As I say in the lyrics, sometime ago, after the worst kind of a sleepless night, my doctor came to see me and after a lot of self-pity, belly-aching and complaining about my insomnia, he looked at me and said “speaking of doing something about insomnia, did you ever try counting your blessings?”

…Personally I feel it’s the best song I have written in a long time and should be a hit.  I would have saved it for one of the pictures, but they’re too far off…”

Eddie Fisher introduced the upbeat ballad at a gala banquet.  “Berlin insisted Fisher dedicate the song to “our greatest blessing”—President Eisenhower.”

Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney singing Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep in the musical White Christmas
Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney singing Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep in the musical White Christmas

Count Your Blessings {Instead of Sheep} was used  by Irving Berlin for the 1954 movie White Christmas.

Although the song makes no reference to Christmas, the song is commonly performed as a Christmas song.

Count Your Blessings {Instead of Sheep} was nominated for Best Song at the 1955 Academy Awards.  “Three Coins in a Fountain won the award for Best Song beating the Irving Berlin song.  The title song, White Christmas, was not a contender for nomination, because it had already won Best Song for the 1942 Irving Berlin musical, Holiday Inn.  Bing Crosby starred in both movies.

The song has been recorded by numerous artists including Johnny Mathis, Barry Manilow and Andy Williams, however the best known recordings are by Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby.  Clooney and Crosby were two of the four stars in the film White Christmas and sung the song in the musical.

 

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