American songwriter James Pierpont, born James Lord Pierpont, was born on this day in Boston, Mass (some sources wrongly list his birthplace to be in Maine). His father was a well known pastor, poet and abolitionist. He was also the nephew of the famous banker James Pierpont Morgan. In 1832, young James was sent to boarding school in New Hampshire. But in 1836, he ran away to sea on board a whaling ship. Upon returning, he enlisted in the Navy, leaving at the age of 21. Back in New England, he married and started a family, but later got caught up in the gold fever that was gripping San Francisco. He left his young family to start a supply store there, but the business failed when he lost all of his inventory in a fire. He also supplemented his income by becoming a photographer. In 1856, his wife died, leaving him with 3 children. James' father had taken a job in church located in Savannah, Georgia; so James followed him there. He was then hired by the church as the organist and music director. He also became an independent music teacher, teaching both the organ and voice. (A point of trivia, the organ from that church is currently located at Florida State University in Tallahassee). This is when he started composing his own songs. Though he was a prolific song writer, there is just one song that he is known for (well known!) today. In 1857 he composed Christmas song that he originally called "The One Horse Open Sleigh"--two years later, he added "Jingle Bells" to the title. Today it is one of the most well known non-religious Christmas song in the world. While in Savannah, he also remarried and had more children. Then the civil war broke out and James and his father found themselves on opposite sides of the conflict, with his father serving as Army Chaplin in the the Union Army and James writing songs from the Confederacy. After the war, he moved with his family to Valdosta, Georgia to teach music, then in 1869 he moved just down the road to Quitman, where he had accepted a job as church organist in a Presbyterian church there and to teach music at the Quitman Academy. By the time he reached retirement age, he was the Music Director at the Academy. After retirement, he moved to Winter Haven, Florida; where he died at the age of 71 on the 5th of August. He is buried at Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia. In regards to films, the first time "Jingle Bells" was used in a movie came in an early sound short from 1927 also called Jingle Bells (the first hundreds to come!). It was next featured in another early partial sound short The Toy Shop in 1928 (the film has a mono musical score, and is also an early color film showcasing the early 2-strip Technicolor process). The first time the song was used in a full length film came in 1930 in The Unholy Three. The first time in was used in a television series came in 1951 with a Christmas special for The Frank Sinatra Show. It's most recent use came on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. It's most recent use in a feature film dates from this year with the thriller Clinical. Pierpont was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 1970.
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