December 16, 2013 by  

Reindeer, You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen … and all of the words to this Christmas classic. Our favorite versions span from the 1940s to just last week, showing the incredible staying power of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

But which is the best version? Vote below, and you’ll go down in history!

Gene Autry (1949)
The singing cowboy was the first to bring the red-nosed reindeer’s musical story to life. It’s no surprise this version was the second-best-selling Christmas single for more than three decades, only topped by Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” because, with its jangly bells and bright horns, it sounds exactly like a Christmas song should sound.

Burl Ives (1964)
This is the version from the stop-motion animation TV special. As a child, you might have thought a jaunty snowman with a banjo sang this, but it was really Burl Ives the whole time.

Ray Charles (1985)
Time for Rudolph to get funky! You can’t help but smile watching Charles — in a killer gold lamé jacket — turn a story about a flying reindeer into the coolest jam you’ve ever heard.

Dolly Parton (1990)
And now for some bluegrass! (“Rudolph” really lends itself to a lot of genres, huh?) Dolly tells the story to a group of kids who then join in with the country legend at the end for a big Christmas sing-along.

Destiny’s Child (2004)
If this were a video contest, Beyoncé and Co. would win hands-down. They updated the 1964 TV special with their own Rankin/Bass stop-motion animation, complete with the Snowman narrator behind the boards and the trio snowboarding around a winter wonderland. The song itself is great too, especially the a cappella intro.

Jack Johnson (2013)
Jack’s laid-back rendition was always going to be on our list, but then he went and re-recorded it with The Roots for the Philippines relief effort and made it even better. Check out his Late Night With Jimmy Fallon performance from Wednesday:

Bonus: DMX (2012)
Kind of like Cartman in the “O Holy Night” list, we would be remiss if we didn’t at least mention this instant classic from last year. When an interviewer handed X the lyrics to “Rudolph” and asked if he’d perform it, he one-upped her by pushing the words aside and doing a seriously impressive freestyle version on the spot. Merry DMX-mas!

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