Robert MacGimsey

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Robert Hunter MacGimsey (Pineville, Louisiana 1898 Phoenix, Arizona 1979) was an American composer. His most famous song was "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" (1934), a well-known Christmas carol written in the style of an African-American spiritual.

Early years[edit]

Born Robert Hunter MacGimsey[1] in Pineville, Louisiana, of white parents, MacGimsey spent most of his formative years in the company of blacks who lived and worked for and with his family. Due to their influence he wrote in an "African American" style,.[2] and he is often mistakenly assumed to be a black composer.[citation needed]

When he was young, MacGimsey sang in the church choir that his mother directed. She ensured that he received training in music, eventually studying under Frank Damrosch at the Institute of Musical Art in New York.[3]

Law and politics[edit]

Before he became known for his musical accomplishments, MacGimsey was an attorney in Lake Providence, Louisiana,[4] in addition to being an adviser to United States Senator Joseph E. Ransdell[3] from Louisiana.[5] In 1960, MacGimsey said that he was giving up music to dedicate the remainder of his life to good government.[3]


MacGimsey was also famous for double whistling, or whistling duets.


MacGimsey is also known for the song "How Do You Do?" which was originally written for the Walt Disney live-action musical drama Song of the South. The song is also featured in the theme-park attraction Splash Mountain located in Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Tokyo Disneyland.[citation needed] MacGimsey also composed "Shadrack,"[6] which was a 1962 hit[7] for Brook Benton that was also recorded by Louis Armstrong and many others.[citation needed] In 1947, Robert Merrill recorded a disc (Victor 10-1303) with MacGimsey's songs ("Sweet Little Jesus Boy" and "To My Mother") on both sides.[8]

MacGimsey worked with singer John Gary, beginning with their first meeting after Gary had left the Marines. Gary made a demonstration record with four new songs by MacGimsey, and a friendship developed thereafter.[9]


MacGimsey's library, letters and works can be found in the library archives at Louisiana College, Pineville, Louisiana.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "A Note on Robert MacGimsey", back page of the original publication of the song Shadrack. New York: Carl Fischer, Inc., 1931
  2. ^ Wolfert, Ira (January 8, 1939). "Politics Started Composer on Way". The Indianapolis Star. Indiana, Indianapolis. North America Newspaper Alliance. p. 5. Retrieved 25 December 2018 – via
  3. ^ a b c Smoot, Joanne (October 13, 1960). "Music Maker MacGimsey Moves Here". Arizona Republic. Arizona, Phoenix. p. 11. Retrieved 25 December 2018 – via
  4. ^ McNamara, Daniel I. (April 14, 1939). "Personalities in Music". Adams County Independent. Pennsylvania, Littlestown. Music Features & Photo Syndicate. p. 3. Retrieved 25 December 2018 – via
  5. ^ Kennedy, Sue (December 28, 1969). "Whistling lawyer writes another". Arizona Republic. Arizona, Phoenix. p. 4-N. Retrieved 25 December 2018 – via
  6. ^ "Music Items" (PDF). Billboard. April 29, 1939. p. 14. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  7. ^ "Honor Roll of Hits" (PDF). Billboard. February 17, 1962. p. 32. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  8. ^ "Record Reviews" (PDF). Billboard. May 24, 1947. p. 126. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  9. ^ "Reunion for MacGimsey, Gary". Arizona Republic. Arizona, Phoenix. April 25, 1965. p. C-17. Retrieved 25 December 2018 – via

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