Today under the tree, something a little different. One modern Christmas classic, three contemporary singers, which means … Diva Throwdown!
Truth be told, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” is a protest song. It’s a call for peace written in October 1962, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis. The music was written by Gloria Shayne. The lyrics were written by Noel Regney. The Harry Simeone Chorale had the first big hit with it that year. Bing Crosby had an even bigger hit with it in 1963.
It’s been widely covered since, and one of the more familiar versions is up first on Diva Throwdown! Because sometimes Christmas isn’t Christmas unless someone sings the bejeezus (the be-baby-jeezus?) out of a tune.
“Do You Hear What I Hear?” Whitney Houston, from “A Very Special Christmas,” 1987.
There’s a nice slow groove underneath this one. Then add a little bit of gospel. Once Houston gets revved up, she soars right over the top of those gospel singers. This cover makes it clear that Houston did indeed get her start in the junior gospel choir at her church in Newark, New Jersey.
Next up …
“Do You Hear What I Hear?” Martina McBride, from “White Christmas,’ 1999. (The link is to the 2007 reissue with extra tracks and new cover art.)
This is a fairly laid-back cover, the most straightforward of the three, showcasing McBride’s lovely voice. She’s as much a pop singer as a country singer. After seeing McBride duetting with Pat Benatar on CMT’s “Crossroads” show — that was five years ago already? — she rocks, too.
Next up …
“Do You Hear What I Hear?/The Little Drummer Boy,” Vanessa Williams, from “Star Bright,” 1996. It’s out of print, but is available digitally.
We’ve saved the best for last … and no pun intended.
Williams’ voice isn’t as powerful as Houston’s or McBride’s, but she has a terrific arrangement behind her. There’s a little R&B, there’s a little Afrobeat, there’s a gospel choir. The curious thing about this tune it its title. As far as I can tell, there’s no “Little Drummer Boy” in it.
I picked up several used CDs as I prepared for Diva Throwdown! These so-called divas’ records aren’t really my cup of tea, but I enjoyed Williams’ record. McBride’s record is Midwest nice, and we’ll keep that one, too. But I bought some others — no need to name names — that were disappointing and still others that were almost unlistenable.