Do You Hear What I Hear?

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"Do You Hear What I Hear?"
Song by Harry Simeone
WrittenOctober 1962
Composer(s)Gloria Shayne
Lyricist(s)Noël Regney

"Do You Hear What I Hear?" is a song written in October 1962, with lyrics by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne.[1] The pair, married at the time, wrote it as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis.[2] Regney had been invited by a record producer to write a Christmas song, but he was hesitant due to the commercialism of Christmas.[3] It has sold tens of millions of copies and has been covered by hundreds of artists.[2]


"Do You Hear What I Hear?" tells a story loosely based upon the story of the Nativity of Jesus as told in the Gospel of Matthew, incorporating fragments of the annunciation to the shepherds from the Gospel of Luke, though Jesus is never mentioned by name or explicitly identified. A "night wind" tells a lamb of a star, following which the lamb tells his young shepherd that he also hears a loud song. They are each led to a "mighty king," whom they tell of a child in the cold and ask to bring the child silver and gold (much as the Biblical Magi, which in tradition with prophecies in the Book of Isaiah and Psalm 72 are often characterized as kings, did with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh). The king proclaims a prayer of peace and announces that the child will "bring goodness and light".[citation needed]

The lyrics are inconsistent with the response of Herod the Great, the reigning monarch over the region at the time, who feared the arrival of a new "king of the Jews" and ordered the child massacred. The Magi did not receive word of Christ's birth from the shepherds (who instead went directly to Bethlehem), but by noticing an astronomical event, interpreting it as a new Jewish king, and going to Jerusalem, where Herod informed them of Old Testament prophecies and pointed them toward Bethlehem.


Regney wrote the lyrics for the song, while Shayne composed the music in October 1962.[2] This was an unusual arrangement for the two writers. Usually, it was Shayne who wrote the lyrics for their songs while Regney composed the music, as they did when they wrote a song based on the classic children's song "Rain Rain Go Away".[1][2]

Regney was inspired to write the lyrics "Said the night wind to the little lamb, 'Do you see what I see?'" and "Pray for peace, people everywhere" after watching babies being pushed in strollers on the sidewalks of New York City.[1] Shayne stated in an interview years later that neither could personally perform the entire song at the time they wrote it because of the emotions surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis: "Our little song broke us up. You must realize there was a threat of war at the time".[1]

Recordings and versions[edit]

Original recordings[edit]

"Do You Hear What I Hear?" was released shortly after Thanksgiving in 1962.[1] The song was originally recorded for Mercury Records by the Harry Simeone Chorale,[1] a group that had also popularized "The Little Drummer Boy", and released as part of the album The Wonderful Songs of Christmas with the Harry Simeone Chorale. As a 45 rpm single, it went on to sell more than a quarter-million copies during the 1962 Christmas holiday season.[1]

Bing Crosby made the song into a hit when he recorded his own version of it on October 21, 1963,[4] with the record being released as a single on October 26. Crosby also performed the song on a Bob Hope Christmas television special on December 13 of that year. Over the years, Crosby's recording of the song has been widely played on the radio and has been available on numerous compilation Christmas albums and compact discs put out by Capitol Records.

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been recorded by hundreds of artists. Among the most notable are:

Regney said that his favorite version of the song was performed by Robert Goulet; as The New York Times noted, when the singer came to the line "pray for peace, people everywhere", he "almost shouted the words".[14]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Noland, Claire (2008-03-15). "Pianist wrote music for holiday song". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-11-29.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Fox, Margalit (2008-03-11). "Gloria Shayne Baker, Composer and Lyricist, Dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-23.
  3. ^ Richard W. O’Donnell (2016-08-30). "'Do You Hear What I Hear?': The Story Behind the Song". Franciscan Media. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  4. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography - Part 4a - Song Index". Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  5. ^ Smith, Kate. "The Kate Smith Christmas Album". RCA/Sony Music Distribution. 28 November 1966.
  6. ^ Carroll, Diahann. "Discography". Diahann!
  7. ^ Various Artists. "Christmas Encore". Legacy/Sony Music Distribution. 15 August 1995.
  8. ^ Perry Como with The Ray Charles Singers. "The Perry Como Christmas Album". Kokomo/RCA Victor.Mid-Late August 1968. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-02. Retrieved 2010-05-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ Jackson, Mahalia. "Christmas with Mahalia". Columbia/Sony Music Distribution. 1968.
  10. ^ Murray, Anne. "Do You Hear What I Hear". YouTube: Anne Murray-Topic. 8 November 2014.
  11. ^ LaBelle, Patti. "Do You Hear What I Hear...". YouTube: House of Black Music. 5 January 2017.
  12. ^ Arkenstone, David. "Enchantment: A Magical Christmas". Narada. 9 September 1997.
  13. ^ "A Country Christmas". Toronto Public Library. 2008. Retrieved 2015-12-24.
  14. ^ Douglas Martin: Noel Regney, Songwriter Known for ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ Is Dead at 80., December 1, 2012, last access Dec. 25, 2017.