Christmas Day Music – Mary’s Boy Child, Oh My Lord

Posted on Wed 12/25/2019 by

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On this one special day of the year, Christmas Day, I’m posting perhaps one of my favourite Christmas themed songs, and this one is Mary’s Boy Child. While the song was written by an American, this version today is performed by Boney M, and there are some wonderful and amazing facts about the song itself.

Link to Video at You Tube

This video was posted to You Tube by hennarot1984

The first of those facts relates directly to this featured version of the song itself. The song was originally written in the U.S. made it to Number one in the UK, was performed by a German Group, with all 4 members of that band having their origins in the West Indies chain of Islands, and during the film clip, part of it was filmed in Russia.

Perhaps the least known thing about the song was that it was written by Jester Hairston, and he was an African American, and it was originally written just as a birthday song for a friend of the person he was sharing a room for. Some time later, he was asked by big band leader Walter Schumann to write a new Christmas song for his Hollywood Choir. Hairston remembered the tune for this song and just wrote new words for it. Then, in 1956 Harry Belafonte heard the song, and asked if he could record a version of it. That song by Belafonte was done in a calypso fashion, a little similar to this version I have featured today, but a lot slower than this one, and without the extra lyrics added later by Boney M. Although recorded by Belafonte and released in the U.S. in 1956 as a short version of the song, it was re-recorded by Belafonte for release in the UK, where it was released in 1957. The odd thing about it was that this was the very first song longer than four minutes to get airplay on radio in the UK. That four minute time was considered standard for radio, and no song was longer than that if it was expected to get played on radio. The song itself went to Number One in the UK in November of 1957, the first time any Christmas song had made it all the way to Number One on the popular music charts. It actually sold 1.2 million copies in the UK alone. Since that Belafonte version was released and made the song so popular, it has since been recorded by more than 30 different artists and bands across the years, and also translated into many languages as well. So this is without doubt the most popular Christmas song ever to be written by an African American. Hairston was a noted Composer, Arranger, Songwriter, and Actor, appearing in a number of movies and TV serials as well. He also composed a number of songs now referred to as ‘Negro Spirituals’. Sadly Hairston is no longer with us, having passed away in 2000 at the age of 98, and for his contribution in so many areas, he also has a star on the famed Hollywood Walk Of Fame.

This version was recorded by the German band Boney M in 1978. While the main part of the song is originally the same lyrics written by Jester Hairston, a second set of lyrics were intertwined into the song, the second part of the title here, Oh My Lord, and these lyrics were written by Frank Farian and Fred Jay. Frank Farian was the original founder of this band Boney M, and in the main he used the beautiful voices of the original three female singers, as shown in this clip of the song, even while the band lip syncs this song for the video over the top of the studio version of the song. While Frank Farian was the founder of the band, all he basically did was to produce and manage the band, and occasionally provide studio enhanced backing vocals for studio recordings of his songs. The main female lead vocalist was Liz Mitchell, and she is the main lead singer on this clip. The other two female voices are Marcia Barrett and Maizie Williams, and the male singer is Bobby Farrell, enhanced with the voice of Frank Farian himself. Bony M had a number of hits mainly in the UK, the band’s home Country Germany, in wider Europe, and also here in Australia. In the nine years that the band was at its most active, they brought out seven studio albums, and far and away the biggest of them was Nightflight To Venus, which was a huge Number One album in seven Countries, first released in 1978, and one of the albums I have in my large collection of Vinyl LPs. The band had nine Number One Singles in their home Country Germany, three in the UK, and two here in Australia, as well as numerous other Top Ten Singles. They also had Number One hits in seven other Countries, mostly European. Their hugest song was the Rastafarian version they did of Rivers Of Babylon, which was a huge Number One hit in eleven Countries, and their only significant hit in the U.S. That Single alone from that Nightflight album sold well more than two million copies alone in the UK.

In the UK, and virtually on the back of that Album Nightflight To Venus and the Single Rivers Of Babylon, the band released this Christmas song in time for Christmas of 1978, and like the earlier Single and Album, this song was wildly popular. The song, now morphed from calypso style to the new term for that genre of music, Reggae, and also done in Disco style at the height of that Disco music craze, went straight to Number One in the UK, and sold more than two million copies, so this Christmas song not only was the first Christmas song to make it to Number One on popular music charts, it achieved that feat twice.

When the song’s composer Jester Hairston found out about this Bony M version, and how well it did, he was amazed and impressed no end, and why wouldn’t he be, as the royalties from the writing credit for the song would have been rolling in. He was 78 at the time of the song’s release.

Sadly, as I mentioned above, Jester Hairston passed away at the wonderful old age of 98 In January of 2000, a wonderful life, and a body of musical work that will live long, most famously, every Christmas as versions of his original song are performed all over the World, and this Bony M version is foremost among them all.

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