What do you call a guy who hangs around with musicians?

I have been listening non-stop to Sufjan Stevens’s Songs for Christmas, which is fantastic. I love it. It has a homemade quality to it, which is not surprising, because that was in fact the case. Some of the songs (like “We Three Kings”) have a madrigal feel, which is extra appealing. The collection is basically five EPs, most of which are creepy/atmospheric in the best possible way. This year I am especially keen on “Hark!” and “Joy.”

The latter includes a charming rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy,” and for some reason the Sufjan version got me thinking about the premise of the song, which, let’s be honest, is a bit cracked. Wikipedia tells me that it was transcribed from a traditional Czech carol by Katherine K. Davis and recorded in 1941. Wikipedia also reports that the story is possibly apocryphal and bears a resemblance to a twelfth century legend called The Juggler of Notre Dame, which Massenet adapted into an opera.

Anyhoo. The premise. So of course I get it, that here is a child giving the only gift he can, the gift of his skill. And, you know, it’s a song not the true story of the secret musical life of oxen and lambs. But really. A drum solo? For a newborn? I’d be all, that’s nice, kid, but how’s about you just gather some kindling? That’d be a swell gift for a newborn king.


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