“Come They Told Me”

“Pa rum pum pum pum.” – Various artists (written by Katherine Kennicott Davis)

for King & Country

Ah yes, it is the beautiful musical story of the little boy who had nothing to bring the newborn king, but instead carried his drum and played his gift for him. If you don’t like this song, or maybe you just dislike drummers in general for some peculiar reason, then you might want to check out of this post, but I’d encourage you not to because the story reminds me of something else – miracles.

Many of us are looking for miracles this season… something to lift the spirit… something to give us hope and joy and even a purpose during those dark times that so often crash down around and upon us during times that are supposed to be the most joyous of occasions.

This is the first Christmas without my dad who passed away in August, and it’s been difficult. I find myself tearing up over the silliest and most mundane things this season. I see something Irish (my dad was full blood Irish) – I tear up. I watch one of our family friends coaching basketball on tv (there are a few at prominent universities and on tv frequently) – I tear up. I watch a video of a rendition of my dad’s favorite Righteous Brothers’ song at a friend’s house that they had randomly selected, and you guessed it – watery eyes. Is there a cat in here? Is someone slicing onions? It’s my pine tree allergies!

Honestly, it’s almost like a new calendar has been created. It’s 1 A.D. (After Dad), and there will be many more firsts over the next several months. I read a book recently by the musician Richard Marx called “Stories to Tell” (thank you 2Loud2Old for the recommendation). In a book full of many outstanding stories, I found some of the more poignant moments that connected with me were when Richard spoke about his dad. Richard says that it took him nearly a year to fully process the passing of his father whom he loved and respected very much. I believe him. My wife is in 2 A.D. since my father-in-law passed in March of 2020 and she says she is thinking about him a lot at this time of year as well.

It’s natural to think about our closest loved ones this time of year, and I’ve thought about my dad a lot this Christmas season. One of the few highlights the past few years has been when my wife and I would take he and mom to Christmas Eve Mass.

A lifelong Catholic, my dad attended Mass almost every Sunday and as far as I know never missed a Christmas Eve Mass either. Since they moved here in 2017, neither he nor my mom could drive anymore nor could they really keep up with the correct day and time, so every year my wife and I would pick them up and take them to Christmas Eve Mass. It brought me great pride and joy to be able to provide something so important to he and mom, but especially him. I sat there next to him at Christmas Eve Mass these past few years tearing up a little bit each time knowing that it might be the last one with him. Christmas Eve this year will be very different without him.

“Little baby
Pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too
Pa rum pum pum pum”

This is one of my favorite Christmas songs and it reminds me of the Christmas miracle known as the virgin birth of Jesus. It reminds me of humble beginnings and of having very little to offer. Beginning a life in a lowly stable most likely in a field or within a cave-like dwelling doesn’t exactly conjure up images of greatness or significance. Yet, that’s just what occurred some 2000+ years ago – significance in the form of a miracle that changed the course of history. And this song portrays so vividly the little boy who played his drum in honor of that miracle. And he didn’t just play it. He played his best for him.

This is my friend Annie. She sits in the same row as my wife and I just about every Sunday at church. Annie is in her mid 20’s, lives with her mother and father, has a flair for fashion (obviously!), and she has Down Syndrome. Annie can read and she can speak, but her language (or sometimes referred to as expressive language) is not of this world. When she speaks, it is a string of unintelligible words. But Annie also sings, and when she sings, she sings every word clearly and articulately. Is it always in tune? No, but it is still oh so beautiful. I have been around it so much now that I just take it for granted, but it is truly something special.

I’ve seen video and television shows where those with Down’s may be able to speak well and a few that actually sing very well too (an anomaly apparently in the Down’s community). But, I’ve never seen anyone who is unintelligible (expressive language) like Annie when speaking, yet has the receptive language skills to read every word and sing songs every Sunday. There may be some sort of science that explains this phenomenon. I’m not sure. I know very little of this condition, but I am sure if you look hard enough you can find a scientific reasoning for most anything.

I don’t really care if someone has labeled this already. I believe I’m actually a better person not understanding why or how this happens. What I do know is that if ever there were a time to believe in something… to be searching for something to hold onto during a difficult time… to just believe in miracles again… it is this time of year. Maybe you need something to lift your spirit. I do, and I realize that if you’re not looking very hard, then those miracles may be nothing more than stories from long ago that happened so very far away.

But if you’re looking, sometimes those miracles can actually just be a few seats away from you.

“The ox and lamb kept time. Pa rum pum pum pum.”

There are hundreds of different recordings of “The Little Drummer Boy” when you search for it in Spotify. So much that you could listen to the song for hours if you wanted. There is even a version called “The Little Drummer Girl” by Alicia Keys. I’ve listened to versions by The Jackson Five, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, Bob Seger, and Josh Groban who all take a stab at the Christmas classic written by American composer Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941, and originally called “Carol of the Drum.”

It was first recorded in 1951 by the Trapp Family, and popularized by a 1958 recording by the Harry Simeone Chorale. There is the famous 1977 duet by Bing Crosby and David Bowie from Bing’s final Christmas television special – “Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas.” I remember seeing that video numerous times around Christmas time in the 80’s on MTV. Honestly, I’ve never cared for it very much.

I checked out funky versions of the song by The Temptations and Destiny’s Child from 1980 & 2001 respectively. I tried the Lincoln Brewster/KJ-52 version and classic versions by Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis. New Kids on the Block, country superstar Faith Hill and the sisters Jessica and Ashlee Simpson cover it, and vocal powerhous Mandisa does a nice job with a drum line sounding version on her 2008 Christmas album. There’s even a ridiculously bad danceable version by Justin Bieber which features multiple raps by both the Biebs and Busta Rhymes throughout the song from Bieber’s 2011 Christmas album. I told you – I’ve listened to dozens of versions!

As this is predominantly an 80’s blog, I believe I have an 80’s version of the song that I like the best: it is the Joan Jett & The Blackhearts rock version from the early 80’s. The song was actually featured in a very average 1983 movie called “Class” starring Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Jacqueline Bisset and also featured John Cusack and Alan Ruck. The cast was the best thing about the movie, and I did enjoy Joan’s version of “Little Drummer Boy” popping up briefly during the movie.

You can check out her version right here or scroll on down for the cutest version of this song and finally my favorite version of the song…

With apologies to the late Whitney and Bobbi Christina Houston, the cutest version of the song goes to Carrie Underwood and her son Isaiah from Carrie’s 2020 Christmas album “My Gift”…

But my favorite version of the song is a contemporary version by the Australian-born brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone known as the band for King & Country. Ever since I saw this live version performed in 2017, it has easily topped the list for me. So if you want to check it out, here are the two younger brothers to Christian pop singer and songwriter Rebecca St. James, known as the band for King & Country with “Little Drummer Boy”…

Merry Christmas!

Pa rum pum pum pum,

the 80’s

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