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Harry Moses Simeone (May 9, 1911 – February 22, 2005) was a distinguished music arranger, conductor and composer, best known for arranging the famous Christmas song "The Little Drummer Boy", for which he received co-writing credit.
Simeone was born in Newark, New Jersey. He grew up listening to stars performing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, not far from his native Newark. Initiated and inspired by this childhood passion, he sought a career as a concert pianist. To this end, he enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music, which he attended for three years. But when he was offered work at CBS as an arranger for bandleader Fred Waring, he dropped out of Juilliard to accept it.
After garnering vocal and music arrangement credits for the 1938 RKO motion picture Radio City Revels, Simeone relocated to Hollywood with his wife Margaret McCravy, who briefly sang with Benny Goodman's orchestra, using the stage name Margaret McCrae, and later with Fred Waring. Once there, he had various music production jobs for several Paramount films between 1939 and 1946, including some that starred Bing Crosby. Sometime in 1948, Simeone joined NBC's The Swift Show as the program's orchestra leader, and during 1952, he joined NBC's The Firestone Hour as conductor and choral arranger.
"The Little Drummer Boy"
When the Twentieth-Century Fox Records label contracted Simeone to make a Christmas album in 1958, he assembled a group he called "The Harry Simeone Chorale" and searched for recording material. After being introduced to an obscure song by friend and credited song co-author Henry Onorati titled "Carol of the Drum," Simeone changed the title to "The Little Drummer Boy" and recorded it under that title for his album Sing We Now of Christmas. He received joint authorship-and-composition credit for the album, although he did not actually write or compose the song. The single "The Little Drummer Boy" quickly became extremely popular and scored on the U.S. music charts from 1958 to 1962. The Simeone Chorale had another Christmas success during 1962, with their rendition of the then-new song "Do You Hear What I Hear?" for Mercury Records.
In 1960, Simeone joined a revived half-hour version of The Kate Smith Show on CBS television, produced by Smith's long-time manager, Ted Collins. Though the program had good reviews, audience levels lagged at an early evening time, and the show was cancelled after some six months on the air.
In the same year, 1960, Simeone organized another group which he called "The Harry Simeone Songsters," whose style he made similar to that of the Ray Conniff Singers. That group, under his direction, produced a baseball-oriented song called "It's a Beautiful Day for a Ball Game." The song is on one of the Baseball's Greatest Hits CDs and is still played at major league baseball parks.
In 1964, Simeone signed with Kapp Records. The following year he recorded a new version of "The Little Drummer Boy" for his album O' Bambino - The Little Drummer Boy.
His last years
On May 22, 2000, Simeone and his wife, by then living on the Upper East Side of New York City, officially established the Harry and Margaret Simeone Music Scholarship at Yale University by bestowing a gift of US$1 million. Margaret died the following year, after which Harry's health declined. On Tuesday, February 22, 2005, Harry died at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, almost three months before he would have reached the age of 94. Simeone's granddaughter Laura Stevenson also became a musician, becoming the frontwoman of Laura Stevenson and the Cans.
Simeone died in New York City.
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