Christmas Songbook Day 14*: “Little Drummer Boy”

Let’s start off with the baseline: on its own, when performed in a traditional, choral way, this song gets on my nerves.

The droning bass part of either “Drum, drum, drum, drum” or “pum, pum, pum, pum.” The dragging tempo. The tediousness of the lyric. I just don’t care for it in its basic/classic form.

That said, I don’t hate the idea of the song, so I’m down with versions that change things up. So, here are some of the versions I enjoy the most or have discovered recently that I dig:

Bowie and Bing’s Duet is classic TV and I don’t acknowledge the parody

The pre-song patter is sometimes considered cheesy and unnecessary, but it seems fitting for an era of musical/variety television, so it’s a nice time-capsule of that moment. And I legitimately love the weaving of the two melodies by two master vocalists. I’ll find myself suddenly humming the Bowie part as I’m going through my day. This clip is wholesome and I love it.

For King And Country, because of course

It’s a song about a drummer. It’s practically an international crime not to include these drum-centric songsters. The cinematic nature of the music video is also pretty rad.

Johnny Cash sets his own tempo, you hear me?

It’s so strange, but I still dig it. All the extraneous “pa-rum-pum-pums” are gone, the whole thing’s a little off-kilter, and the image of the little drummer boy opening his mouth to speak and Cash’s voice coming out is just bonkers, and I love it.

ETW – Drummer Boy (from Yo Ho Ho)

Okay, here’s the deal: I love this track for many reasons, but 3 come to mind immediately: 1) You have that nice harmony on the initial chorus, giving you a little Boyz II Men throwback vibe; 2) Once the beat drops, you can clearly hear some Run-DMC influence; and 3) there are a ton of samples from my favorite (and arguably, the best) Christmas movie of all time, It’s a Wonderful Life. While the title track of the album is a lot of fun, I think this one is actually the star at the top of the early-90’s CHH tree.

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