The Little Drummer Boy - A Christmas Music Countdown
The children’s TV movie, The Little Drummer Boy, was released in 1968. Quite a horrific story about a little peasant boy in the Holy Land whose family is killed. He winds up hating everyone. A traveling troupe takes him and during his travels, he’s invited to give a gift to the Baby Jesus, but all he has is his drummer, so he offers up some rhythms. The infant Jesus seems to think it’s pretty cool and smiles at the little drummer boy.
The Little Drummer Boy," also known as "Carol of the Drum," is a popular Christmas song, based on a Czech carol, written by pianist Katherine K. Davis in 1941. It was popularized by the Harry Simeon Chorale version and has been recorded by countless singers from Bing Crosby to Faith Hill.
The story is somewhat similar to an 12th century legend retold by Anatole France as Le Jongleur de Notre Dame (French: Our Lady's Juggler), which was adapted into an opera in 1902 by Jules Massenet. In the French legend, however, a juggler juggles before the statue of the Virgin Mary, and the statue, according to which version of the legend one reads, either smiles at him or throws him a rose (or both, as in the 1984 television film, The Juggler of Notre Dame.)
In 1957, the hitherto obscure song was re-arranged by Henry Onorati for a recording by the Jack Halloran Singers on Dot Records, but was not released in time for Christmas. The following year, 20th Century Fox Records contracted Onorati's friend, Harry Simeone ,to make a Christmas album. As Simeone was looking for material, Onorati introduced him to the “Carol of the Drum.” Simeone re-arranged the song, retitled it “The Little Drummer Boy,” and recorded it with the Harry Simeone Chorale on the album, “Sing We Now of Christmas.”
A total of over 220 versions in seven languages are known, in many music genres.
• 1964 - Marlene Dietrich recorded a German version of the song ("Der Trommelmann").
• 1965 - The Supremes recorded the song for their album Merry Christmas. Vince Guaraldi did a jazz piano arrangement titled "My Little Drum," for his soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas.
• 1966 - The Crusaders, released this as a single. It was included in their November 1966 debut album, regarded as one of the first Christian rock albums.
• 1967 - Stevie Wonder recorded the song for Someday at Christmas.
• 1968 - the song was adapted into an animated television special by Rankin/Bass. The special was followed by a sequel in 1976.
• 1970 - The Brady Bunch recorded the song on their 1970 album Christmas with The Brady Bunch.
• 1977 - One of the more popular versions of this song was recorded for a Crosby Christmas special: “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” duet by the unusual pairing of Bing Crosby and David Bowie.
• 1981 - Rosemary Clooney recorded the song for her album Christmas with Rosemary Clooney.
• 1987 - Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s version very noticeably excludes all names or religious references. This version was used by Johnny Cash and Neil Young on Ben Keith's Seven Gates album (1994).
• 1988 - Mannheim Steamroller included a version on their second Christmas album, A Fresh Aire Christmas.
• 1989 - New Kids on the Block, with lead vocals by Danny Wood, recorded the song on their Christmas album, Merry Merry Christmas.
• 1991 - Al Bano & Romina Power released an Italian version titled "Il Piccolo Tamburino." The Yobs relasesd a parody titled "Rub-a-Dum-Dum."
• 1994 - Kenny G put out an acoustic version of the song on his "Miracles: The Holiday Album". A version by RuPaul was released on Tommy Boy records, and rated a No. 113 on the Hot 100 charts.
• 1998 -Alicia Keys recorded a modified version titled "Little Drummer Girl" for Jermaine Dupri Presents Twelve Soulful Nights Of Christmas. German punk band Die Toten Hosen published the album Wir warten auf's Christkind under their pseudonym Die Roten Rosen. Among other Christmas songs, there is also a version of "The Little Drummer Boy".
• 1999 - The West Wing's first Christmas episode, "In Excelsis Deo," featured a boys' choir singing the song over a funeral service. The episode went on to win multiple Emmy Awards.
• 2000 - Charlotte Church recorded the song in her Christmas album "Dream a Dream".
• 2001 - Destiny's Child covered the song in their holiday album "8 Days of Christmas". Westlife performedd the song live with Dolores O'Riordan of The Cranberries in front of the late Pope John Paul II.
• 2003 - Whitney Houston and her daughter recorded the song on Houston's album One Wish: The Holiday Album.
• 2004 - Art Paul Schlosser released a version of the song called “Kazoo Boy” on his album, The ABCs of Art Paul Schlosser World. Jessica Simpson recorded of Little Drummer Boy in her album Rejoyce: The Christmas Album. Vanessa L. Williams sang it on her album. Silver & Gold.
• 2005 - Boyz II Men recorded their rendition of "Little Drummer Boy" on their Christmas album Winter/Reflections. Bryan Duncan and the NehoSoul Band recorded the song on their A NehoSoul Christmas album. Dwight Schrute briefly performed the song in the pilot episode of The Office. In 2006, Angela performs the song as karaoke in Episode 39.
• 2006 - Christopher Lee recorded a version for his album Revelation. Gladys Knight and the Saints Unified Voices choir released a version of The Little Drummer Boy on their Grammy-Award winning album, A Christmas Celebration.
• 2007 - Jan Rot sang a Dutch version on An + Jan's christmas album Vrolijk Kerstfeest.
• 2008 - The Almost recorded a cover for their acoustic EP No Gift to Bring. Terry Wogan and Aled Jones duplicated the Crosby/Bowie's 1977 "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" duet. After a brief campaign amongst listeners of BBC Radio 2, instigated by Chris Evans to get the song released in support of the Children In Need charity, it was released as a single, reaching #3 in the UK Top 40. Doug Pinnick, George Lynch, Billy Sheehan and Simon Phillips recorded a version on the 2008 album We Wish you a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year. Faith Hill sang the song on her Joy To The World album.
• 2009 Lukas Rossi made his version available for download on his web page. Bob Dylan recorded the song for his 2009 Christmas album Christmas in the Heart. Hans-Peter Lindstrøm made a 40-minute electronic version available as a limited CD and download. Heavy Blinkers featuring Jenn Grant released an alternative look at the classic song 'The Little Drummer Boy' called "Silence Your Drum". This version is told from the perspective of Joseph and Mary, who would rather hear some lute than the barum-pah-pum-pum of the drum.
• 2010 - Mariah Carey covered The Song For Her 13th Studio Album "Merry Christmas II You". The Black Eyed Peas performed a mashup of the song with their single “The Time (Dirty Bit)” on The Oprah Winfrey Show. * Source: Wikipedia
The song has probably been recorded so often because the gift of music has a special meaning to musicians. The little drummer, like them, has been a given a gift, and when called upon, he returns the gift. One notable omission is John Denver’s version. Denver was a gifted storyteller and even though he was a guitarist, he does quite a nice job on Little Drummer Boy
Unfortunately, our “little drummer boy” on our town band would gladly give the gift of the song back. He is also a rock drummer and enjoys nothing more than wailing away on his drum set. The Little Drummer Boy song is a simple rat-a-tat-tat rhythm. At the end, there’s more counting than rat-a-tatting and he gets bored waiting to hit that final tap.
He’ll get his chance again tonight at our town concert at The Church of The Burger King (it’s an inside joke; if you drive up our main highway and you see a church behind a Burger King, you’ve found our concert. It starts at 7:30 p.m. This Christmas concert is our present to the church for giving us someplace to play. On Dec. 12th, we’ll be playing for our town, to repay the town for allowing us to rehearse in the town’s senior citizens center.
This will also be the world premiere of my new orchestra bells. The instructions for the “glockenspiel” come in a number of languages. Glancing through it, there’s a diagram of the keyboard, with directions to the “accidental keys” (the black keys on a piano). I’ll have to consult my musician’s dictionary, but I do believe the word is “occidental,” referring to the Western half-step scale. Although we won’t be playing “Silver Bells” (this year), it’s still a fitting Christmas song for the Christmas Music Countdown, though not a headliner, since we’re not playing it this year.
"Silver Bells" was composed by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. The song was first performed by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in the motion picture The Lemon Drop Kid, which was released in March 1951. The first recorded version was by Bing Crosby and Carol Richards, released in October 1950. After the Crosby and Richards recording became popular, Hope and Maxwell were called back in late 1950 to refilm a more elaborate production of the song.
Silver Bells started out as the questionable “Tinkle Bells.” Evans said, "We never thought that tinkle had a double meaning until Jay went home and his wife said, 'Are you out of your mind? Do you know what the word tinkle is? It’s child's slang for urination!”
The song was inspired by the imagery of Salvation Army bell-ringers standing outside department stores during the Christmas season. It was recorded by even more artists than “Little Drummer Boy,” including Alvin and the Chipmunks and Regis Philbin.