Last time I talked about the weird appearances of Little Drummer Boy figurines in Nativity scenes and the fascinating historical research I got to do for So To Honor Him. Today I’m going to talk about the obligatory soundtrack for the book: “The Carol of the Drum” or “The Little Drummer Boy,” depending on when it was recorded and by whom.
I’m not even going to try to list here all the myriad covers of this song, or even just the better ones. I’ll simply point out some really stand-out recordings and explain why I think they deserve a mention. I know I’m leaving out a lot of favorites; feel free to comment below with a plug for your choice!
Let’s start with a very traditional version, and one that originally helped to make the song famous. That would be Harry Simeone and his chorale recording. Simeone changed the original title to “The Little Drummer Boy,” and this is probably the version you remember most from the Christmas Muzak during your shopping runs. (available on Amazon)
Next, let’s visit a very popular modern favorite, the justly famous Pentatonix cover. Pentatonix has been tearing up the a capella charts for the last few years, and it’s not hard to see why with this kind of work. (available on Amazon)
This next recording really caught my attention the first time I encountered it — kind of a “what?! for real?” moment. I mean, who would have thought David Bowie and Bing Crosby would release a duet together? But they did, and it works, and I like it.
Unfortunately, the song appears to be presently available on CD only, though other tracks from the same album are available for mp3 download. Still, the entire CD is only $5.99 at the time of this writing, so it’s not a bad deal. (available on Amazon)
Apocalyptica presents a non-traditional take on the carol which is fun just for its minor key and metallic tones. Because even Christmas can use a little classical metal. (available on Amazon)
A similarly metal cover was offered by the incomparable Sir Christopher Lee — yes, that Sir Christopher Lee. (available on Amazon)
Sorry for the extremely-unofficial video…. If the visuals distract you, just listen. This 2-disc album is out-of-print, but if some exec is smart, he’ll get digital files available for purchase. Low overhead, long tail — c’mon, guys, get with the modern program. (sometimes available used on Amazon)
And of course, this is all up for discussion because of my new release, So To Honor Him.
All Amazon links are affiliate links. And as I said, if you feel I neglected to mention a stand-out cover of the song, feel free to comment with your recommendation!
Also published on Medium.