"Long time ago in Bethlehem
So the Holy Bible says
Mary's boy child, Jesus Christ
Was born on Christmas Day."
Jester Hairston starred in both To Kill a Mockingbird and In the Heat of the Night. However, he is not known for these roles, but rather for a Christmas song that he wrote in 1956. He not only acted but also wrote music. The grandson of slaves, he desired to keep the Negro spirituals alive. In 1956, his roommate asked him to write a song for his birthday, which he did. The song, titled He Pone and Chocolate Tea, featured a calypso beat.
At Christmas, the Schumann's Hollywood Choir asked him to write a Christmas song for them. Hairston took the birthday song, changed the lyrics and re-titled it "Mary's Boy Child". Singer Harry Belafonte asked permission to record the song on his album "An Evening with Belafonte". The song rose to #1 on the U.K. Charts in 1957. Mahalia Jackson also sang the song, only under the title "Mary's Little Boy Child". To listen to the Harry Belafonte version, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WY3o4_iIudg.