I was in Starbucks this afternoon, waiting for the Lovely Miss Courtney, and while waiting I heard a recording of Ray Charles singing “Little Drummer Boy.” As I listened I realized that not even Ray Charles could make this song a good song.
Oh sure, he was doing OK musically, and I suppose any good creative musician could find a way to do something musically interesting with the song. But the words are just ridiculous. First of all, the thing didn’t happen. You can check both of the Biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus (Matthew and Luke), and there’s shepherds, animals, angels, and eventually wise men, but no drummer.
Second, if the episode had happened, it would have been a disaster…
Joseph: Mary? Are you asleep?
Mary: I was trying to… oh man, now Jesus is awake again. What is it, Joseph? Did they find a real room for us yet?
Joseph: Not yet. But hey, you know how people keep dropping by all evening to see the baby? So, there’s a kid out here who wants to bring a gift.
Mary (groggy, sleepy): Can’t you tell him to come back in the morning? I’m really tired, and those shepherds seemed like they were here forever.
Joseph: He’s already here – let’s just let him in, be nice, and take his gift, and he’ll be gone in a minute.
Mary: OK, whatever. I just want to get Jesus back to sleep and go to sleep myself.
(Joseph returns, bringing a young boy with a drum)
Kid With Drum: Hi! I’m here to bring a gift to the baby, but I’m kind of poor and can’t afford much…
Joseph: How nice – you’re giving our son your own drum? That’s so generous, but really, you should keep that. It’ll be years before he’s ready to take on a musical instrument, and we really don’t want you to be without your own drum…
Kid With Drum (interrupting): Are you crazy? I’m not giving him my drum, it’s the only drum I have. I just wanted to play a song for him.
Mary: On the drum? (as she speaks, she begins to stuff Jesus under the blankets to muffle what she knows is about to happen).
KWD: Sure, that’s why I brought it.
Joseph (excited): This is so great. Do you know “Babaloo?”
Mary: Uh, Joseph wait a minute there… You know Kid, it’s so nice that you came and all, but I’m really tired and I’ve been trying to get Jesus to sleeep, and well, drums are kind of loud, and…
KWD: No problem, it’s not that loud (**Note to readers – drummers always say that).
KWD counts “1, 2, 3, 4” and begins to play. Jesus begins to scream from under the swaddling clothes.
Mary (shouting over the drumming): THANK YOU SO MUCH, OBVIOUSLY YOU’RE VERY TALENTED. I THINK WE’RE GOING TO TRY TO GO TO SLEEP NOW.
KWD: My pleasure. Congratulations. See you later.
Kid With Drum exits, closimg barn door behind him. As he walks away, the sound of Jesus screaming, as well as Mary screaming at Joseph, can be heard in the background.
Merry Christmas! Here’s a performance by Bob Seger….