Some people seem to dislike this particular carol with the passion of a thousand Christmas light bulbs, but I’ve always loved it. (No comment on how much of that attachment is due to sentimental childhood memories of that Rankin Bass special!) No matter how many times I hear it, somehow it always strikes me fresh. Of course, it helps if it’s performed well. Read on to find out who we are featuring today…
1. 4Him: For the 90s CCM version. This allows Andy Chrisman to shine with his signature uncannily pure tone. Perhaps I will always have a soft spot for his voice since it was one of the first voices I grew up hearing on Christian radio. The other three members are also excellent on backup.
3. John Denver: Because it’s John Denver!
4. Vienna Boys’ Choir: Because it’s the Vienna Boys’ Choir!
5. Von Trapp Family Singers: This was the song’s first cut, and to this day it remains, in my opinion, the gold standard of this carol. Completely acappella, relentlessly crisp and disciplined, with the men sounding for all the world like a real drum behind the ladies:
Honorable Mention: Harry Simeone Choir — This is one of the earliest recordings of the carol, and it charted in the U.S. from 1958 to 1962 (my, hasn’t radio changed!) The choir director, Harry Simeone, took co-writing credit for the song, even though he only arranged and popularized it under the name “Little Drummer Boy.” (The carol was originally composed using an old Czech text as source material by Katherine Kennicott Davis as “Carol of the Drum.”)