The Little Drummer Boy(Katherine Davis Ė Harry Simeone Ė Henry Onorati)
1958 International Korwin Corp.
Katherine Davis, from St. Joseph, Missouri, taught at Wellesley College and wrote over a thousand pieces of music, mostly operettas, hymns and choral works. Her choral pieces were very popular and she once won an award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. Davis actually wrote the song in 1941 and called it The Carol of the Drum. Drums have been depicted in other Christmas carols, such as The Twelve Days of Christmas, where the twelfth day is assigned to drummers drumming, and Patapan, where the subject is a drum and a drum-like beat is used for the rhythm. In 1958, Harry Simeone, who once directed the Fred Waring Orchestra and now was a choir leader, was looking for songs for a Christmas album. He came across Davisís The Carol of the Drum, rearranged it, changed the name, recorded it, and it became a huge hit. It has been recorded by a variety of singers, including Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Johnny Mathis and Lou Rawls. In 1977, Bing Crosby sang it on his last Christmas television special as a duet with David Bowie.
This carol is played here with a habanera accompaniment. The habanera is a rhythm which developed in Cuba in the early nineteenth century, although its roots can be traced to the Country Dance of seventeenth century England. Musically, the habanera rhythm is similar to the tango. Possibly the most famous habanera is from Bizetís Carmen, although Bizet may have borrowed it from El Areglito by Spanish composer Sebastian Yradier. Yradier was the author of another well-known habanera, La Paloma. The habanera rhythm is found in many Ragtime pieces, such as Scott Joplinís Solace (1909) and it can also be heard in many New Orleans Jazz pieces.
Kevin Sanders, April, 2009