A song, a song, high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea. – Noël Regney
My friend Terry majored in music and also adored comedy, so it should come as no surprise that he was very good at inventing song parodies on the fly. And though we had always spent a lot of time together, that was especially true in the latter half of 1986; I lacked both a boyfriend and a car at the time, and since Terry was only too happy to ferry me about we saw even more of one another than usual. One night just before Christmas of that year, he was driving me down to the National supermarket at the corner of Robert E. Lee and West End Boulevard (where I bought most of my groceries in those days) and we got into a discussion of Christmas songs we liked and hated. As I’ve mentioned before, I strongly dislike sappy and overly-sentimental songs, and the one Christmas song I despise above all others is both: “Do You Hear What I Hear”, written during the Cuban Missile Crisis by Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker; in addition to its other loathsome qualities, I hate the patent absurdity of the way the bearers of the message escalate in authority over the course of the song. Well, by the time we got to the store Terry was starting to improvise a parody, and as I shopped we continued working on it; by the time we got back to my place it was mostly done, and he wrote it down on a piece of scratch paper that I have treasured for 27 years.
I don’t know why I remember that night so clearly; we spent many pleasant times together that are now, alas, lost to time and the fragility of human memory. Perhaps it’s because I think of that song every year, and sing it at least a few times every Yuletide season. This year, I’d like to share it with y’all, not merely because it’s something I had a hand in writing (I suspect observant readers may be able to guess which lines came out of my head), but also because it ridicules several things that I’m still mocking a quarter-century later, including the way rumors become increasingly distorted with repetition and the way people adore “authorities” no matter how horribly they behave.
Do You Hear What I Hear? (music by GS Baker, lyrics by Terry F. & Maggie M.)
Said the north star to the winter wind,
“Let’s fuck with this kid’s head.
Tell him a story that’s bizarre;
Let’s pretend we’re Godhead.
Tell him I’m an omen or something
And then he’ll run to the king;
He will certainly run to the king.”
Said the winter wind to the shepherd boy,
“Listen to what I say!
Leave the sheep alone for awhile,
And listen to what I say!
A star, a star, the third one from the right –
It will bring us goodness and light,
It will bring us goodness and light!”
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
“The wind told me to come here!”
(Of course we know this isn’t true;
It gets much worse, I fear.)
“A star, a star, the third one to the right –
It will bring us goats every night,
It will bring us goats every night!”
Said the king to the men in the white coats,
“Take this nut case away!
He’s been spending too much time with sheep and goats –
Put him in a white room
With padded walls, guards out in the halls
In the deepest part of the loony bin,
Where he cannot talk to the wind.”
Said the king to the people everywhere,
“Listen not to blockheads
Who go about talking to the wind,
And sleep with sheep in their beds!
Stars have no right, bringing goats by night
To weird little kids in the field,
To weird little sheep in the field.”
Said the people to the sheep everywhere,
“Come and lie in our beds!
Wooly white sheep everywhere,
The king said lie in our beds!”
The wind said “Star, this has gone too far –
Let’s do it again next year!”
“Yes,” said Star, “Let’s do it next year.”
Merry Christmas, dear readers, and if the wind tells you anything tonight it would probably be better if you didn’t repeat it to any kings or agents thereof.