Christmas Songs day 21: Mary’s Boy Child

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 Bonaparte Belafonte:

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)!

(emphasis mine)

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? 😉


This entry was posted in Christmas Music Special, Deconstructions, Music and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Christmas Songs day 21: Mary’s Boy Child

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, December 21st, 2012 « The Slacktiverse

  2. Firedrake says:

    It’s OK, I restored it from the backup tapes.

    The video player I’m using lets me tweak playback speed and bias the pitch back to where it should be, but it does a better job of adding energy to Day-O than to Mary’s Boy Child – where there’s not really any beat to work with.

    How had I missed the Boney M Christmas Album? Steps must be taken. And gosh, eighties video processing goodness.

    To me, Tom Jones makes every song sound like a Tom Jones song. More power to him, I guess; he’s built a big career on that singing style.

    (If you want truly disturbing, a friend of mine has a CD with what sounds like a kid of about seven singing the Marines’ Hymn…)

    Of course there’s Christian hip-hop. There’s Christian everything. Probably even Christian porn. Don’t want to think about that. But even as a non-hip-hop fan, I suspect that na-na-na-na-na probably doesn’t have a place in the genre.

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