The Little Drummer Boy

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"The Little Drummer Boy"
Single by Harry Simeone Chorale
B-side"Die Lorelei" (20th Fox)
"O' Holy Night" (20th Century-Fox)
"Hallelujah" (Kapp)
"O' Bambino (One Cold and Blessed Winter)" (Kapp Winners Circle; MCA)
Released1958 (1958)
Format7-inch
GenreChristmas, Pop
Length3:03
Label20th Fox 45-121
20th Century-Fox 429
20th Century-Fox 6429
Kapp 711
Kapp Winners Circle 86
MCA 65030
Writer(s)Harry Simeone
K.K. Davis
Henry Onorati
 
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This article is about the Christmas song. For the movie about a little drummer boy who does not want to grow up, see The Tin Drum (film). For the 1968 stop motion animated film, see The Little Drummer Boy (TV special).
K.K. Davis' "The Little Drummer Boy" was first recorded in 1955 as "Carol of the Drum"
Modern-day "Little Drummer Boy" reenactment actor, from the show "Data-Driven Drumming."
"The Little Drummer Boy"
Single by Harry Simeone Chorale
B-side"Die Lorelei" (20th Fox)
"O' Holy Night" (20th Century-Fox)
"Hallelujah" (Kapp)
"O' Bambino (One Cold and Blessed Winter)" (Kapp Winners Circle; MCA)
Released1958 (1958)
Format7-inch
GenreChristmas, Pop
Length3:03
Label20th Fox 45-121
20th Century-Fox 429
20th Century-Fox 6429
Kapp 711
Kapp Winners Circle 86
MCA 65030
Writer(s)Harry Simeone
K.K. Davis
Henry Onorati

"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] It was recorded in 1955 by the Trapp Family Singers[2] and further popularized by a 1958 recording by the Harry Simeone Chorale. This version was re-released successfully for several years and the song has been recorded many times since.[3]

In the lyrics the singer relates how, as a poor young boy, he was summoned by the Magi to the nativity where, without a gift for the infant Jesus, he played his drum with the Virgin Mary's approval, remembering "I played my best for Him" and "He smiled at me."

Origins[edit]

The song was originally titled "Carol of the Drum" and was published by Davis as based upon a traditional Czech carol.[4] Davis's interest was in producing material for amateur and girls' choirs: her manuscript is set as a chorale, the tune in the soprano 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]

Although Davis did search far and wide for suitable material, the Czech original has never been identified, though the style is comparable with the Czech "Rocking Carol", a lullaby collected in the early 20th century by a Miss Jacubickova as "Hajej, nynjej" and given English words by Percy Dearmer for the Oxford Book of Carols in 1928. The tune of the "Rocking Carol", however, bears almost no resemblance to that of "Carol of the Drum", as may be heard in several places online.

"Carol of the Drum" appealed to the Austrian von Trapp singers, who first brought the song to wider prominence when they recorded it in 1955, shortly before they retired: their version was credited solely to Davis and published by Belwin-Mills.[7] In 1957 it was recorded, with a slightly altered arrangement, by the Jack Halloran Singers for their album Christmas Is A-Comin' on Dot Records. Dot's Henry Onorati introduced the song to his friend Harry Simeone and the following year, when 20th Century Fox Records contracted him to make a Christmas album, Simeone, making further small changes to the Halloran arrangement[8] and retitling it "The Little Drummer Boy", recorded it with the Harry Simeone Chorale on the album Sing We Now of Christmas. Simeone and Onorati claimed joint composition credits with Davis.[3]

The album and the song were an enormous success, the single scoring on the U.S. music charts from 1958 to 1962. In 1963 the album was reissued under the title The Little Drummer Boy: A Christmas Festival, capitalizing on the single's popularity. The following year the album was released in stereo. In 1988, The Little Drummer Boy: A Christmas Festival was released on CD by Casablanca Records,[3] and subsequently, on Island Records.[9] Harry Simeone, who in 1964 had signed with Kapp Records, recorded a new version of "The Little Drummer Boy" in 1965 for his album O' Bambino: The Little Drummer Boy.[3] Simeone recorded the song a third and final time in 1981, for an album (again titled The Little Drummer Boy) on the budget Holiday Records label.

The story depicted in the song is somewhat similar to a 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.)

Other versions[edit]

The popularity of the "The Little Drummer Boy" can be seen by the number of cover versions: a total of over 220 versions in seven languages are known, in all kinds of music genres:

1950s[edit]

1960s[edit]

1962
1963
1964
1965
1966
1967
1968
1969

1970s[edit]

1970
1972
1977
1979

1980s[edit]

1981
1984
1985
1987
1988
1989

1990–1999[edit]

1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999

2000–2009[edit]

2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009

2010–[edit]

2010
2011
2012
2013

Covers in other languages[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Boughton, Harrison Charles (1977). Katherine K. Davis: life and work. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Thesis, University of Missouri, reprint by University Microfilms. 
  2. ^ "albums". Singers.com. 1998-03-12. Retrieved 2011-12-31. 
  3. ^ a b c d Leigh, Spencer (2005-03-05). "Harry Simeone: Populariser of 'The Little Drummer Boy'". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  4. ^ Lee Hartsfeld (2006-12-05). "Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anyplace Else: Carol of the Little Drummer Boy". Musicyouwont.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-12-31. 
  5. ^ "Image of original mansucript in Wellesley College Library". Retrieved 2011-12-31. 
  6. ^ Cummings, Robert. "Allmusic biography". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 2011-12-31. 
  7. ^ "Scan of published sheet music". Photos1.blogger.com. Retrieved 2011-12-31. 
  8. ^ "The Little Drummer Boy by The Harry Simeone Chorale Songfacts". Songfacts.com. 1977-09-11. Retrieved 2011-12-31. 
  9. ^ "The Little Drummer Boy: Adolphe Adam, Katherine K. Davis, Christmas Traditional, Harry Simeone Chorale: Music". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2011-12-31. 
  10. ^ Crosby, Bing; Bowie, David (2010-12-07). "Bing Crosby & David Bowie - The Little Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-12-31. 
  11. ^ "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town/Little Drummer Boy | Björn Again Album | Yahoo! Music". New.music.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2011-12-31. 
  12. ^ TV.com. "Animaniacs: Little Drummer Warners - Season 1, Episode 246". TV.com. Retrieved 2011-12-31. 
  13. ^ "Muziek | Myspace Music". Imeem.com. Retrieved 2011-12-31. 
  14. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwCCvAdXY6g
  15. ^ "Bandaged: The Album"
  16. ^ Peter Vidani. "Comedy Death-Ray Xmas". Cdrxmas.tumblr.com. Retrieved 2011-12-31. 
  17. ^ "Duwende - Little Drummer Boy (A Cappella)". YouTube. 2011-11-28. Retrieved 2011-12-31. 
  18. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJ_MGWio-vc
  19. ^ http://vimeo.com/81949682
  20. ^ http://newalbumreleases.net/60682/jonathan-butler-merry-christmas-to-you-2013/ Retrieved 3 January 2014

External links[edit]