The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)

"The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)"

Picture sleeve of 1958 reissue by Liberty Records (F-55250)
Single by The Chipmunks and David Seville
from the album Let's All Sing with The Chipmunks
B-side "Almost Good" (David Seville)
"Alvin's Harmonica"

November 17, 1958 (U.S.)

December 22, 1958
Format 7-inch
Recorded October 31, 1958
Genre Christmas, novelty, pop
Length 2:17
Label Liberty F-55168
Liberty F-55250
Writer(s) Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. (a.k.a. David Seville)
Producer(s) Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. (a.k.a. David Seville)
The Chipmunks and David Seville singles chronology
"The Bird on My Head"
"The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)"
"Alvin's Harmonica"

"The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" is a novelty Christmas song written by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. (a.k.a. David Seville) in 1958. Although it was written and sung by Bagdasarian (in the form of a high-pitched chipmunk voice), the singing credits are given to The Chipmunks, a fictitious singing group consisting of three chipmunks by the names of Alvin, Simon and Theodore. The song won three Grammy Awards in 1958: Best Comedy Performance, Best Children's Recording, and Best Engineered Record (non-classical).[1]


In the song, David asks the Chipmunks if they are ready to sing the song. Both Simon and Theodore answer yes, but Alvin hesitates, causing David to yell, "ALVIN!!!" Alvin replies, "OKAY!" After the first chorus is sung, in which Alvin mentions wanting to have a hula hoop, an instrumental break is heard, and David tells the Chipmunks to get ready to sing the last half of the chorus, and compliments both Simon and Theodore for singing well. However, David tells Alvin that he sang a little flat. The Chipmunks sing the last half of the song (Alvin still wanting a hula hoop). At the end, David compliments the chipmunks for their singing. However, when the chipmunks want to sing the song again, David objects, telling them not to overdo it. An argument ensues between the Chipmunks and David as the song fades out.

Chart performance and sales

The song was very successful, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles chart, becoming The Chipmunks' first (and only), as well as David Seville's second and final, No. 1 single. It has the distinction of being the only Christmas record to reach No. 1 on the same chart. The single sold 4.5 million copies in seven weeks, according to Ross Bagdasarian, Jr.[2] Ironically, before the song's success, "The Chipmunk Song" was featured on American Bandstand's "Rate-A-Record" segment and received the lowest possible rating of 35 across the board.[3]

Between 1958 and 1962, the single managed to re-enter the Hot 100, peaking at No. 41 in 1958, No. 45 in 1960, and No. 39 in 1962. (Starting in 1963, Billboard would list recurrent Christmas songs on a separate chart.) The song managed to chart on the Hot Digital Songs for the first time in 2005, peaking at No. 35 on that chart.

"The Chipmunk Song" is the last Christmas/holiday song to reach No. 1 on any US singles record chart totaling performance of all available records.

With the release and popularity of the film Alvin and the Chipmunks in December 2007, "The Chipmunk Song" re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 70. At the same time, a remixed version of the song that appears on the Chipmunks' 2007 album (and soundtrack to the film) Alvin and the Chipmunks: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, peaked at No. 66 and was credited as "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late) (2007 Version)".

As of December 25, 2011, Nielsen SoundScan estimated total sales of two versions of the digital track by The Chipmunks at 867,000 downloads, placing it third on the list of all-time best-selling Christmas/holiday digital singles in SoundScan history (behind Mariah Carey's 1994 hit single "All I Want for Christmas Is You" and Trans-Siberian Orchestra's 1996 track "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24").[4]

Adaptation in other media

The song has been adapted in The Alvin Show as one of its musical segments. The short depicts Alvin looking through various presents to find a hula hoop, even as he reluctantly sings along with the other Chipmunks. At the end of the song, Seville rewards Simon and Theodore with toy planes and Alvin with his hula hoop. The subsequent argument about singing the song again ends abruptly with their Christmas tree falling over, and Seville and the Chipmunks emerge from the mess to wish the viewers a merry Christmas.

The song was featured in A Chipmunk Christmas. A depressed Alvin sings along flatly at first (much like the 1958 original), but then leaves the studio to give away his harmonica to a sick boy. As Seville starts to resume recording the song without Alvin, Alvin returns in the nick of time to sing the song with the others.

The song was featured in the 1980s and 1990s version of Alvin and the Chipmunks, in the episode "Merry Christmas, Mr. Carroll." In that version, Alvin is taken by Dave (as the Spirit of Christmas Past) to his old house, a cabin lodge where he saw Dave and younger versions of himself, Simon and Theodore. There, it was revealed that Dave wrote the song (called "The Christmas Song" in this episode), because it was inspired by the gifts that the young Chipmunks gave him (which was an eraser, a pencil and a piece of paper).

The song was featured in the film Alvin and the Chipmunks. A scene similar to that of the original segment on "The Alvin Show" appears with Jason Lee portraying Dave Seville. The film also features the original track by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. and a new rock mix, both of which appear on the film's soundtrack. The original track is played briefly during a flashback in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip.

The song is recited by a fan of the band, Misty, in the ALVINNN!!! and the Chipmunks episode, "Mojo Missing".

The original recording has been used in the feature films, Rocky IV (1985), Donnie Brasco (1997) and Almost Famous (2000).

On a Christmas episode of The King of Queens, the character Doug Heffernan says it's his favorite Christmas song, but his father-in-law Arthur Spooner despises it, chastising Alvin for his delays in the song, saying it "throws the other chipmunks off". However, Arthur soon takes a great liking to the song and continually plays it throughout the episode, much to Doug and his wife Carrie's annoyance.

It can also be found on the 2-disc Christmas compilation album Now That's What I Call Christmas! 4.

See also


  1. O'Neil, Tom (4 May 2009). "Today in 1959: First Grammy Awards handed out". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 Nov 2009.
  2. History section
  3. Clark, Dick; Robinson, Richard (1976). Rock, Roll and Remember. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company.
  4. Grein, Paul (2011-12-28). "Week Ending Dec. 25, 2011. Songs: Bringing "Sexy" Back". Yahoo! Music. Nielsen Business Media. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
Preceded by
"To Know Him Is to Love Him"
by The Teddy Bears
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
22 December 1958 (four weeks)
Succeeded by
"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"
by The Platters
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