WITH its soft piano based melody and gravelly vocals, Chris Rea’s Driving Home for Christmas is a perennial festive favourite.
It was written by Rea in 1978 when he was, in fact, in a car heading home around Christmas time.
However, he wasn’t the one driving – he was scribbling away the lyrics that he’d eventually put to music in the 1980s.
In an interview with The Guardian, Rea explains that he had just been released from his record contract and his manager was parting company with him.
He was trying to get back home to Middlesbrough from London, but the label wouldn’t pay for his train back up.
Luckily, his wife was a kind soul and drove down to Abbey Road studios in her Austin Mini and drove her husband all the way back north… in the snow!
He said: “We kept getting stuck in traffic and I’d look across at the other drivers, who all looked so miserable. Jokingly, I started singing: ‘We’re driving home for Christmas…’ Then, whenever the street lights shone inside the car, I started writing down lyrics.”
The couple were struggling financially, but returned home to find a royalty cheque for Rea’s song Fool (If You Think It’s Over).
The song was put to one side for several years before a jam session resulted in a Christmassy sounding melody forming that fit the lyrics perfectly.
“If I’m ever stuck on the M25 – the Road to Hell – I’ll wind the window down and start singing, ‘I’m driving home for Christmas’ at people in cars alongside. They love it. It’s like giving them a present,” Rea says.
In the charts, it peaked at number 53 in 1988. Subsequent re-entries have reached higher spots, with the song hitting number 26 in 2016.
The song has been used in Christmas adverts for supermarket chain Iceland several times, including one cover version by X Factor star Stacey Solomon.
A new music video for the song was released in 2009, with proceeds going to homeless charity Shelter. It starred celebrity cameos from the likes of Mike Read, Gail Porter and Jimmy Greaves.
Earlier this month, Rea collapsed on stage during a performance and cancelled his UK shows. He is currently in a ‘stable’ condition.