This week our song is one of my favorites, Do You Hear What I Hear?. The song was penned in October of 1962. As I looked into the origins of this piece of music I was struck by the many historical connections beyond Christmas. 1962 was a year of much strife. The US was bogged down with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the world sat on edge at the thought of a nuclear war. The song was written as a plea for peace. The lyrics tell the tale of how the word spread about the birth of Jesus. From the night wind, to the little lamb, to the shepherd boy and then to the king who told it to the people everywhere. The two writers of the song were married but had a history all their own also. Lyricist, Noel Regney, was a Frenchman from Alsace that was drafted into the Nazi Army during WWII. He turned double agent for the French Resistance and helped with the Allied effort until breaking his arm in an attack. Composer, Gloria Shayne, was an American who grew up next to Rose & Joe Kennedy, and their son, future president Kennedy. She would find her way to New York City as a pianist where she worked with legends like Sondheim and Berlin. The song was tremendously personal to them and they wrote that the originally could not sing the whole song without emotion taking over.
The original recording was made in 1962 by Harry Simone Chorale (also known for an original version of the Little Drummer Boy) and was played often. But it was in 1963 that the song became a true hit. Bing Crosby released his recording in October of that year, not long before the Kennedy assassination. When he sang it in December on the Bob Hope television Christmas Special. The song brought some deep emotional response to the nation and everyone wanted a copy. Today there have been tens of millions copies and over 100 recordings. Classic versions come from the expected standards- Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, and even Kate Smith. Listen to some of our interesting choices here:Harry Simone Chorale– The original recoding ( I actually had never heard this one!) Bing Crosby– He does almost every holiday song so well Vanessa Williams– Live recording from a Holiday concert in Vienna Whitney Houston– Live performance from the Tonight Show Rosie & Elmo– Live performance on the Today Show Manheim Steamroller– Interesting video to go with the recording