Sunday 13 December 2015

Noel Regney & Gloria Shayne's "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
Do you see what I see
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you see what I see
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite.

In October of 1962, Noel Regney walked down the street in Manhattan, discouraged and disillusioned.  The world was on the brink of war:  America and the U.S.S.R. were arguing over missiles recently built in Cuba, aimed at the United States.  Rather than enjoying the autumn colours in their backgrounds, people were building bomb shelters.  The tension was so real, they could feel it.

Noel Regney was no stranger to war.  Born and raised in France, he had been drafted by the Germany Army during the Second World War.  Unbeknownst to the Germans, he went underground as part of the French Resistance.  Wounded during the war, some suspect he was hit by the French, to protect his identity from the Germans.

Noel Regney survived the war and in 1952, he immigrated to the United States.  The composer was smitten by a young singer named Gloria Shayne.  After a whirlwind courtship, the couple married.  Shayne was a talented lyricist, Noel a talented composer, so the two teamed up to write songs.  "Rain, Rain Go Away" was one of their trademark tunes.

However, in October of 1962, their arrangement changed.  As Noel walked down the Manhattan streets with a heavy heart, he looked up and spotted two babies in carriages.  He was struck by their joy and innocence.  They gave him hope.  Back at his apartment, he started to compose a Christmas song about the hope that the two babies brought, despite the world being on the brink of war.  Noel's wife, Gloria, wrote the music.  Do You Hear What I Hear? was the result.

"Pray for peace, people everywhere" became Noel's plea.  The two babies became the "little lamb".  "A star in the night" brought hope.  A "child sleeping in the night", the baby Jesus, brought "goodness and light".  Noel and Gloria struggled to perform the song at first, explaining:  "Our little song broke us up.  You must realize there was a threat of nuclear war."

The carol was first recorded on Thanksgiving of 1962 by the Harry Simeone Chorale.  However, it was Bing Crosby who made it a hit with his recording of October 1963 (  The carol was by far the biggest hit for Noel and Gloria Regney.   

The Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved after a few weeks, in large part thanks to President John F. Kennedy's levelheadedness and diplomacy (see and  Sadly, the President didn't get to enjoy the peace that resulted as he was assassinated only a year later in November of 1963.

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