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Brenda Lee reveals reluctant beginnings with 'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree' as a pre-teen as song hits number one at age 78

The "I'm Sorry" singer, affectionately called "Little Miss Dynamite," will be celebrating her 79th birthday soon as well!

CHRISTMAS AT THE OPRY -- Red Carpet -- Pictured: Brenda Lee
Ahad Sanwari
Ahad SanwariSenior WriterNew York
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Brenda Lee's rockin' around the Hot 100, as her eternal Christmas classic "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" finally hits number one on the United States singles chart, 65 years after its initial release.

The legendary singer, known affectionately as "Little Miss Dynamite" due to her early success as a pre-teen and 4'9 stature, has officially been crowned the senior-most artist to top the chart at the age of 78, a week before her 79th birthday, overtaking Louis Armstrong who hit number one in 1962 with "Hello, Dolly!" when he was 62.

However, Lee's beginnings with the song go far back, all the way to 1957, when she was only 12 years old and was first asked to record the track by Johnny Marks, the songwriter behind classics like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "A Holly Jolly Christmas."

Brenda Lee at The 57th Annual CMA Awards at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee on November 8, 2023.© Getty Images
Brenda Lee finally hits number one with "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"

In a 2015 interview with The Tennessean, the singer recalled her initial reluctance to take on the track when she was still so early into her career, especially after Marks had told a friend that he expressly wanted Lee to sing it.

"I was only 12, and I had not had a lot of success in records, but for some reason he heard me and wanted me to do it. And I did," she shared.

Photo of Brenda LEE; Posed portrait of Brenda Lee© Getty Images
Lee was approached with the song when she was just 12 and recorded it at 13

At the time, Lee had just started gaining national prominence as a child star but was still waiting for a breakout hit and was still a year out from releasing her debut album.

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She remembered in her interview how comfortable producer Owen Bradley made the recording environment for a young Lee. "When I walked into the studio, Owen had the lights way down low, the air conditioning was, I think, set on zero, and he had a Christmas tree and Christmas lights. I thought that was so special."

Photo of Brenda LEE; Brenda Lee at Christmas© Getty Images
The song has become a Christmas classic over the years and has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide

The song was not successful upon initial release, only selling 5000 copies to start. However, over the years, it began picking up steam around the holiday season and by 2008, it had sold nearly 25 million physical copies worldwide. 15 years later, it's her third ever Hot 100 number one and broke a multitude of records.

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According to Billboard, the song is the third ever holiday number one on the chart, after "The Chipmunk Song" by The Chipmunks and "All I Want for Christmas is You" by Mariah Carey.

Country and Rock N Roll Hall of Fame member Brenda Lee performs at The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in the CMA Theater on December 9, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.© Getty Images
Lee has performed the song in a majority of her shows and concerts and remains just as enthusiastic as ever

In fact, this is the first time in the past four years since holiday tracks have continually recurred on the chart that "Rockin'" charts higher than "All I Want for Christmas," which has hit number one on the chart every holiday season since 2019, thereby blocking other high-ranking holiday staples like Burl Ives' "A Holly Jolly Christmas," Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bell Rock," and Wham!'s "Last Christmas."

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Mariah Carey performs onstage for "Merry Christmas One And All!" at Yaamava' Resort & Casino at San Manuel on November 15, 2023 in Highland, California.© Getty Images
This is the first time the song surpasses its biggest competition, "All I Want for Christmas is You"

Lee also achieves the longest run to number one for a song since its date of initial release, completing an emotional 65-year journey to the top. The song gained even more momentum this year when an official music video was released for the first time to celebrate its 65th anniversary, featuring the likes of Tanya Tucker and Trisha Yearwood.

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