Johnny Marks

John D. Marks (November 10, 1909 – September 3, 1985) was an American songwriter. Although he was Jewish,[1][2] he specialized in Christmas songs and wrote many holiday standards, including "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (a hit for Gene Autry and others), "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" (a hit for Brenda Lee), "A Holly Jolly Christmas" (recorded by the Quinto Sisters and later by Burl Ives), "Silver and Gold" (for Burl Ives), and "Run Rudolph Run" (recorded by Chuck Berry).

Personal life

Marks was born in Mount Vernon, New York.[3] A graduate of McBurney School in New York, NY, and Colgate and Columbia Universities, Marks later studied in Paris. He earned a Bronze Star and four Battle Stars as a Captain in the 26th Special Service Company during World War II. Marks had three children: Michael, Laura and David. He is a great-uncle of economist Steven Levitt.[4]

Marks was the nephew of Marcus M. Marks (1858–1937), an important business figure who served as Borough President of Manhattan. Johnny Marks's father, Louis B. Marks, was a leading lighting engineer. His wife, Margaret May Marks, was the sister of Robert L. May.[3]

He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City.


Among Marks's many works is "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer", which was based on a poem of the same name, written by Marks’s brother-in-law, Robert L. May, Rudolph's creator. A television film based on the story and song first aired in 1964, with Marks himself composing the score.

In addition to his songwriting, he founded St. Nicholas Music in 1949, and served as director of ASCAP from 1957 to 1961. In 1981, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[5]

Works (incomplete list)

Christmas songs

From the 1964 NBC/Rankin-Bass TV Production Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer

** Burl Ives released "A Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Silver and Gold," two songs he sang as his character Sam the Snowman, as singles for the 1965 holiday season, the year after the TV production.

From the 1975 DePatie-Freling TV Production The Tiny Tree[6][7]



  1. Bloom, Nate (2006-12-19). "The Jews Who Wrote Christmas Songs". InterfaithFamily. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
  2. Barbara Ellen (9 December 2001). "Why a sad song says so much". The Guardian.
  3. 1 2 Bloom, Nate (2011-12-20). "Shining a Light on the Largely Untold Story of the Origins of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer". Retrieved 2011-12-22.
  4. The Probability that a Real-Estate Agent is Cheating You (and other riddles of modern life): Inside the curious mind of the heralded young economist Steven Levitt by Stephen J. Dubner, New York Times Magazine, August 3, 2003
  5. Johnny Marks at the Songwriters Hall of Fame
  6. The Tiny Tree at the Internet Movie Database
  7. "The Tiny Tree - DePatie-Freling - 1975," YouTube
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