Anytime the subject of Christmas music comes up there are sure to be multiple people who sneer at this particular song? Yet I never get a good answer why. There are so many annoying overplayed Christmas songs, but this is not one of them. A lot of radio stations and shopping malls are content with non-religious holiday music so Drummer Boy is not going to frequently show up there. Though not scriptural, the song and story are not offensive. Rumpa pum pum is no where near as annoying as the screeching often heard in* Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree* or Jingle Bells Rock. And do not get me started on Last Christmas.
But this thread to is not about the worst of the worst Christmas music. It is the defense of a song about a child wanting to honor Jesus, but only can offer his music. The boy is successful, so much so that even the animals are enjoying the performance. The tale is sweet and the message positive.
So it is now resolved. The Little Drummer Boy is one of the good Christmas songs/carols. Place your holiday coal elsewhere.
I really like the Bing Crosby/David Bowie mash-up. Otherwise, I’m very meh on the song. So was Bowie, as it turns out; “Peace on Earth” was composed specifically for that TV special as a contrapuntal duet because Bowie didn’t like “Little Drummer Boy.”
For some of us, at least, the Little Drummer Boy is one of those songs that has to be judged by its resonance with emotion and deeply entrenched associations rather than objectively. It was first recorded when one Harry Moses Simeone was contracted in 1958 to make a Christmas album, so he formed something called the “The Harry Simeone Chorale”, and this song was developed based on an obscure old song called “Carol of the Drum”. That 1958 version is the original and still the one widely played.
Are the lyrics stupid? Certainly they are. But then, I and millions of other boomers heard this song constantly during our childhood as we counted down to Christmas morning. And when you’re waiting for Christmas morning as a child listening to Christmas music, spraying Christmas decorations on your front windows with stencils and fake snow, with the piney smell of a fresh Christmas tree next to you, the spirit of Santa so close you can feel it, there are no stupid lyrics.
The Little Drummer Boy was not originally recorded by the Harry Simeone Chorale. Before that it was called Carol of the Drum and was recorded by the Van Trapp Singers. YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwBSy3dVAKo
Harry Simeone rearranged it and slowed it down, and, yes, that IS the version everybody came to know. I tend to enjoy it up until about the 10th iteration or so, and then it becomes tedious.
I don’t know why you’d call it “misplaced.” If one hates the song, one hates the song.
I had a friend who played a piano version, which he called a la Floyd Kramer. I liked that version. I believe the lack of lyrics helped a lot, not to mention the lack of a drum. I wish he’d put it on Youtube so I could link it, but he didn’t, so I can’t.
Even though we had to sing it in the Christmas pageant, probably all 9 years of grade school*, and despite how slow and repetitious it is, I still like it.
It has to grow on you like a fungus before you begin to dislike it, as opposed to most modern Christmas songs, which stink from the first listening.
*Kindergarten included. No I didn’t flunk grade school
You wonder why people hate this song? I guess they are mostly women and I’ll tell you why.
Here is poor Mary. Heavily pregnant, she has been bumped about on a donkey all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Arriving at Bethlehem, she goes into labour. With nowhere to stay, they finally find refuge in a stable. She gives birth, all on her own (can’t imagine Joseph would be much help!)
So she gets herself cleaned up, gets the baby cleaned up, feeds him (presumably) and gets him off to sleep. Totally exhausted, she tries to rest herself. Then what happens?
A choir of angels start singing! The baby wakes up. Mary tries to be gracious, thanks them. Eventually they leave. Mary gets the baby back to sleep.
A bunch of shepherds arrive, claiming they have been told to come and look at the baby. Baby wakes up. Mary tries to be gracious, welcomes them, shows them the baby, they leave. Mary gets the baby back to sleep.
Then another bunch of complete strangers arrive, claiming they have followed a star a long way to see the baby. Baby wakes up. Mary tries to be gracious, welcomes them, shows them the baby, they leave. Mary gets the baby back to sleep.
And then … a snotty little kid arrives and starts BANGING A DRUM ….
It doesn’t help that the animated special is by far one of the worst that used to make its way into the regular rotation of network Christmas specials.
And yeah, the song is slow and way too saccharine and preachy. I’ve noticed it doesn’t make its way into the playlists of many stores’ background music as often as it used to. It may be my own confirmation bias or it may be because it’s just not being covered by as many pop and country artists as it used to be.