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Although it was considered a most unlikely candidate to top the music charts, Bing Crosby knew a hit when he saw it. He had passed up the carol one time, and he wasn't about to do it again. However, it was the message that it brought to a struggling world that he appreciated most. "The Little Drummer Boy" ended up being the final Christmas song that he ever recorded.
Originally penned with the title "The Carol of the Drum," this beloved song, rich with meaning and captivating through its uniqueness, was written by Katherine Davis. In the 1890's, it was highly unusual for a woman to pursue a career in music, but pursue she did. Wellesley College in Massachusettes recognized her incredible talent and creative drive and embraced her as a student, eventually hiring her on as a music teacher.
She devoted herself to writing her unique style of music, in which her deep love of history and study of other countries and cultures were interwoven throughout each penned measure. However, as her recognition was increasing, World War II broke out and she found herself desperately longing for simple times again. It was also during this time that her studies landed upon English and French Folktales that reminded her that the greatest gifts at Christmas came from the heart. Inspired, she decided to try something completely different: a Christmas song written from the heart to give solace to other aching hearts of the world in the aftermath of the war and The Great Depression.
Ironically, the only artists to first appreciate her efforts were the Trapp Family Singers (the Sound of Music is one of my favorite movies!), understanding first-hand the effects of the Hitler's war. The song still went largely unnoticed to the world until Harry Simeone, an arranger and choral producer for Twentieth Century Fox Records, came upon it and saw its potential for a new Christmas hit.
With Katherine Davis' permission, he rearranged it for choral presentation and changed the title to "The Little Drummer Boy." Surprisingly, the recording made the top 40, resonating well in a world searching for meaning and love at Christmas. Christ had again entered the world of music in an unexpected way, reminding us that gifts from the heart are far more precious to Him than the material gifts that the world lauds.
As we struggle through the gift returns and exchanges from our Christmas celebrations and as we look forward to the Feast of the Epiphany next week, this song is a great reminder of the simplicity of love.
How reassuring and encouraging that message is!
God bless you all, and in case you didn't get enough of this beautiful carol this Christmas season, here's a link:
Source: "Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas by Ace Collins, Copyright 2010
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