Friday, December 05, 2014

Do You Hear What I Hear?

One of the few Christmas songs written in the post-World War Two years with a religious theme that also became a mainstream hit is "Do You Hear What I Hear." Despite the subject matter it's not a hymn or a carol, it's a pop song. It's been recorded by literally hundreds of artists although in recent years, as things have become more and more politically correct, vocalists have become increasingly afraid of singing religious holiday songs, so today, it is heard less frequently.

The reason I'm writing about this classic has nothing to do with religion. Instead it's because I accidentally discovered "Do You Hear What I Hear" has a short, simple, but very interesting origin. It was written by the married songwriting team of Noel Regney and Gloria Shane Baker. According to Wikipedia Regney wrote the lyrics and Baker the music, a situation that was opposite of how the two usually worked. They also wrote songs for a host of others including Bobby Vinton, Doris Day and Perry Como. Regney also wrote the English lyrics for The Singing Nun's "Dominique" (1963).

What makes this Christmas tune interesting is that it was written in October 1962. Readers old enough to remember should recall how close the World came to nuclear war that month of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Regney and Baker wrote the song as a plea for peace during that sad October and it became a hit record for the Harry Simeone Chorale who also released the popular "Little Drummer Boy" in 1958. The next year Bing Crosby issued his version of "Do You Hear What I Hear" which eventually became more popular than the original.

The song's lyrics tell the tale of Jesus's birth in sort of a "whisper down the lane" manner. The "night wind" tells a "little lamb" who tells a "shepherd boy" and so on until it reaches the "mighty king."

The song has even been recorded (for better or worse) by Bob Dylan. Here are two versions including the bard's recent cover from 2009.

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