So um… I’ll be honest. I have no idea why I wanted to do this song. But it’s on my list!
Mary’s Boy Child was written in 1953, so it’s fairly contemporary compared to, say, Adeste Fideles. It was first recorded by Harry
One thing caught my eye while researching this video: the top comment at the time I write this reads as follows:
The radio stations need to play this song more and more each November and December. Play this for your kids and tell them that you love them. A Hopeful and Merry Christmas 2012 to everyone — everywhere (including Heaven)!
Consider that the bible says:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son
I’d be concerned what kids make of the concept of love when you explicitly relate it to the Christmas story…
Anyway, back to the song.
The song has some interesting phrasing, such as:
Long time ago in Bethlehem,
So the Holy Bible say,
They found no place to born she child
When I was a child, one of my mother’s boyfriends was very into reggae, and they took me to the Reggae Fest in San Francisco a few times. The phrasing here sounded very similar to the wording in a lot of the music I heard back then, so I did some digging into this Harry B (because I’m going to keep typing Bonaparte and my backspace key is acting up, let’s just call him Harry B). Turns out he’s the guy who sings “day-o”, and in fact, is credited for popularizing the calypso genre to an international audience:
So if this song were a little faster and less reverent, it could have been very interesting indeed. So now I have something to say about this song! I wonder if adaptations have been faithful over the years to the Calypso theme?
(Calypso, in case you’re not familiar, is an Afro-Caribbean style that originates from Trinidad, where it began as the music of slaves who spoke first French and later English but kept their West African musical heritage. Reggae, by contrast, came about much later in Jamaica, where it came out of Ska; however, it was influenced by Mento, which was like Calypso but in Jamaica so with subtly different origins.)
Boney M, a German disco group from the 70’s, did an adaptation that seems like a Calypso-Disco fusion:
That version apparently is one of the best-selling singles of all time in the UK. Also, no, I’ve never heard “Oh My Lord” before.
And no, I have no idea what’s up with that dude’s hair. I wasn’t born then.
Welsh vocalist Tom Jones apparently sings just about every pop genre; Wikipedia lists him as singing “pop, rock, R&B, show tunes, country, dance, soul and gospel”. But what he doesn’t sing is apparently Calypso:
The Wiggles hadn’t made it to the US before I grew too old for them, and I’ve yet to have children of my own, so my exposure to children’s music is fairly limited these days; they do a cover that’s… kind of Spanish, I’d say? Almost Calypso:
Compare to this children’s version by The Countdown Kids which is very Calypso but the vocals kind of disturb me:
tobyMac is a Christian hip-hop artist, apparently? Such a thing exists? He does a cover that’s very hiphop:
Here’s the Vienna Boy’s Choir and opera singer Grace Bumbry, neither of whom are really cut out for Calypso, like, at all:
So that’s a thing.
There’s apparently another Calypso Christmas carol, called the Calypso Carol. According to Youtube, it’s apparently mostly done by choirs, such as the St Winifred’s School Choir:
But I found a version by a solitary singer:
which is unfortunately uncredited.
While you read this, assuming the world hasn’t ended, I’m driving 10 hours to visit relatives for the holiday. Is anyone else travelling? Actually, wait, you’re in the future. Has the world ended? 😉