Today’s Christmas song is, ‘Mary’s Boy Child’. This a 1956 Christmas song that was written by Jester Hairston. It is widely performed as a Christmas carol. The song had its genesis when Hairston was sharing a room with a friend. The friend asked him to write a song for a birthday party. Hairston wrote the song with a calypso rhythm because the people at the party would be mainly of West Indian origin. The song's original title was "He Pone and Chocolate Tea", ‘pone’ being a type of cornbread. It was never recorded in the present form.
At a later occasion, Walter Schumann, at the time conducting ‘Schumann's Hollywood Choir’, asked Hairston to write a new Christmas song for his choir. Hairston remembered the calypso rhythm from his old song and wrote new lyrics for it. Harry Belafonte heard the song being performed by the choir and sought permission to record it. It was recorded in 1956 for his album ‘An Evening with Belafonte’. An edited version was subsequently released as a single, reaching Number 1 on the ‘UK Singles Chart’ in November 1957. It was the first single to sell over one million copies in the UK alone. To date, Belafonte's version has sold over 1.19 million copies. In 1962. the full-length version was added to a re-issue of Belafonte's previously released album ‘To Wish You a Merry Christmas’.
The song was also recorded by Mahalia Jackson in 1956, but one of the best-known cover versions of the song is from the German-based disco-group Boney M from 1978, ‘Mary’s Boy Child-Oh My Lord’. This version returned the song to the top of the UK chart. It is one of the best-selling singles of all time in the UK and has sold 1.87 million copies as of November 2015. Many others have recorded versions of the song like Andy Williams (1965): Charlotte Church (2000): Jim Reeves (1963): The Three Degrees: The Bee Gees and many more artists.
The most influential person in my life was my mother. It was she who taught me the essence of life and showed me the infinite pleasure of living it wholesomely on whatever little money or possessions one has. My mother held a deep-seated love of her family and a respect for her parents that endured unabated until the day she died. She had many human failings, but such were infinitely minuscule when placed against her greatest strengths and most lovable and enduring of characteristics. She was kindness incarnate and would give her last penny away to any beggar for the mere asking of it. She was honest, sensitive, caring and compassionate. She always gave more than was asked of her and did more than was expected of her; never short-changing another human being.
Mum was also very streetwise and even though she could not sing for toffee, she sang her songs all day long as she kept house and was wife to a miner and mother to seven children. I would think her greatest human characteristics was her capacity to openly express her love. Never did one day of my childhood years until adulthood pass without her telling me (and all my siblings), ’I love you’ or reminding me that I was ‘special’. Mum never made enemies and had the capacity to forgive another who may have wronged her, minutes after the offending action had occurred.
My mother was the most special mum me that any child could ever wish for and she was Christened ‘Mary’ at birth. This was the same name her mother had been Christened and her mother before her (mum’s maternal grandmother).
It is perhaps of little surprise to learn that almost every girl who is born in the traditionally Roman Catholic countries of Ireland and Italy are Christened, ‘Mary’ or some derivative of, such as Marie or Maria or Marian.
Find me one Irishman you who didn’t have either a mother or sister who wasn’t called. ‘Mary’ and I’ll willingly give you a £1. I’ll give you my house and every penny I own though if you find an Irishman who didn’t have a Mary within their extended family of nieces and cousins.
I have long known that one of the human contradictions of many Catholic men is to want the two sides of a woman to make their lives complete when choosing the perfect wife. They want to marry the Virgin Mary; who will become the saintly mother and maternal head of the home, as well as have access to Mary the sinner in the bedroom. It is as though, only a blend and fusion of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene will wholly satisfy an Irishman. (Mary Magdalene was the woman onto which a succession of fantasies has been projected throughout the centuries from one of a prostitute to the woman who befriended Jesus of Nazareth).
Every Christian child never forgets their introduction to the story of Mary and Joseph that Christmas over 2000 years ago when they sought shelter in a stable, and where Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus. This scene is viewed in wonderment by children all over the Christian world.
Sheila and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and should you have a grandmother, wife, girlfriend, lover, daughter or any significant other called Mary, cherish her, because 10/1 says that she will be ‘a good woman’ (a colloquial phrase of any Irish man praising a female).
Love and peace Bill xxx