The Little Drummer Boy

"The Little Drummer Boy"
Single Harry Simeone Chorale-The Little Drummer Boy cover.gif
One of US single picture sleeves
Single by Harry Simeone Chorale
Released December 19, 1958 (1958-12-19)
Genre
Length 3:03
Label 20th Fox
Songwriter(s)

"The Little Drummer Boy" (originally known as "Carol of the Drum") is a popular Christmas song written by the American classical music composer and teacher Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941.[1] First recorded in 1951 by the Trapp Family Singers, the song was further popularized by a 1958 recording by the Harry Simeone Chorale; the Simeone version was re-released successfully for several years and the song has been recorded many times since.[2] In the lyrics, the singer relates how, as a poor young boy, he was summoned by the Magi to the Nativity of Jesus. Without a gift for the Infant, the little drummer boy played his drum with approval from Jesus's mother, Mary, recalling, "I played my best for him" and "He smiled at me".

Origins and history

The song was originally titled "Carol of the Drum" and was published by Davis, subtitled "Czech carol freely transcribed by C.R.W. Robertson". While speculation has been made that the song is very loosely based on "Hajej, nynjej",[3] the chair of the music department at Davis's alma mater Wellesley College claims otherwise.[4] In an interview with Music Department Chair Claire Fontijn, the College writes:

Inspiration for "The Little Drummer Boy" came to Davis in 1941. "[One day], when she was trying to take a nap, she was obsessed with this song that came into her head and it was supposed to have been inspired by a French song, ‘Patapan,’" explained Fontijn. "And then ‘patapan’ translated in her mind to ‘pa-rum-pum-pum,’ and it took on a rhythm." The result was "The Little Drummer Boy."

The purported Czech original of the carol has never been identified.

Davis's interest was in producing material for amateur and girls' choirs: Her manuscript is set as a chorale, in which the tune is in the soprano melody with alto harmony, tenor and bass parts producing the "drum rhythm" and a keyboard accompaniment "for rehearsal only". It is headed "Czech Carol freely transcribed by K.K.D.", these initials then deleted and replaced with "C.R.W. Robinson", a name under which Davis sometimes published.[5][6]

"Carol of the Drum" appealed to the Austrian Trapp Family Singers, who first brought the song to wider prominence when they recorded it for Decca Records in 1951 on their first album for the label. Their version was credited solely to Davis and published by Belwin-Mills.[7]

In 1957, the song was recorded with an altered arrangement by Jack Halloran for his Jack Halloran Singers on their Dot Records album Christmas Is A-Comin'. This arrangement is the one commonly sung today.[2] However, the recording was not released as a single that year. In response to this, Dot producer Henry Onorati, who left Dot to become the new head of 20th Century-Fox Records in 1958,[8] introduced the song to Harry Simeone. When 20th Century-Fox Records contracted with Simeone to record a Christmas album, Simeone hired many of the same singers that had sung in Halloran's version and made a near-identical recording with his newly created Harry Simeone Chorale.[2][9][10] It was released as a single in 1958,[9] and later on the album, Sing We Now of Christmas, later retitled The Little Drummer Boy. The only difference between Simeone's and Halloran's versions, was that Simeone's contained finger cymbals, and the song's title had been changed to "The Little Drummer Boy".[2] Simeone and Onorati claimed and received joint composition credits with Davis,[2] although the two did not actually compose or arrange it.[9][10] Halloran never received a joint writing credit for the song, something his family disagrees with.[9][10][11]

The album and the song were an enormous success,[12] with the single scoring in the top 40 of the U.S. music charts from 1958 to 1962.[9] In 1965, Simeone, who had signed with Kapp Records in 1964, re-recorded a new version of the song for his album O' Bambino: The Little Drummer Boy.[13] This version (3:18 play time) was recorded in stereo, had a slightly slower tempo, and contained different-sounding cymbals. Simeone recorded the song a third and final time in 1981 (3:08 play time), for an album, again titled The Little Drummer Boy, on the budget Holiday Records label.

Notable cover versions

"The Little Drummer Boy" has been recorded by many artists. Among the most notable are the following:

References

  1. ^ Boughton, Harrison Charles (1977). "Katherine K. Davis: life and work". Ann Arbor, Michigan: Thesis, University of Missouri, reprint by University Microfilms. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ a b c d e f Leigh, Spencer (5 March 2005). "Harry Simeone Populariser of 'The Little Drummer Boy'". Independent.co.uk. Independent. Archived from the original on 27 November 2019. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  3. ^ Crawford, Deanne. "The Little Drummer Boy: A Christmas Unit Study". Our Homeschool Forum. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  4. ^ "Wellesley Faculty Experts Provide Historical Context for Christmas Carols for WGBH, U.S. Postal Service". Wellesley College. Wellesley College. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  5. ^ "Image of original manuscript in Wellesley College Library". Archived from the original on 4 January 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  6. ^ Cummings, Robert. "Allmusic biography". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  7. ^ "Scan of published sheet music". Photos1.blogger.com. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  8. ^ Anonymous, "20th Fox set with 1st Disk Releases." Billboard April 21, 1958.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "The Little Drummer Boy by The Harry Simeone Chorale Songfacts". Songfacts.com. 11 September 1977. Archived from the original on 25 November 2019. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  10. ^ a b c d Estrella, E. (8 February 2019). How the 'Little Drummer Boy' Christmas Carol Came to Be.
  11. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Fifties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. p. 394. ISBN 1-85227-937-0.
  12. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Harry Simeone Chorale". Allmusic.com. AllMusic, Netaktion LLC. Archived from the original on 12 June 2020. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  13. ^ Record catalogue number: KL-1450, Track 1, Length 3:18.
  14. ^ https://www.allmusic.com/album/the-best-of-christmas-capitol-mw0000676427
  15. ^ Crosby, Bing; Bowie, David (7 December 2010). "Bing Crosby & David Bowie - The Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth". YouTube. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  16. ^ Zaleski, Annie (30 November 2017). "When David Bowie and Bing Crosby Rang in the Holidays". Ultimate Classic Rock. Archived from the original on 28 November 2020. Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  17. ^ "Bandaged: The Album".
  18. ^ [Official Video] Little Drummer Boy - Pentatonix. YouTube. 25 November 2013.
  19. ^ "Glee Cast Chart History (Holiday Digital Song Sales)". Billboard. Retrieved 3 November 2020.

External links

Copyright