“Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A newborn King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
Rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.”
Twenty-one of the most famous and most sung lines at Christmas time are rum pum pum pum. From the 1941 classic “Little Drummer Boy,” the words and music are by Katherine K. Davis.
Although Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone have often been credited with writing the song, they were only the arrangers for their recordings of the popular Christmas song. The best-known version of the song is by the Harry Simeone Chorale.
The lyrics tell the story of a poor young boy who is unable to afford a gift for the infant Jesus. He then plays his drum for the newborn with the Virgin Mary’s approval.
The Wellesley College website states that Davis said her most famous composition, “Little Drummer Boy,” came to her while she was “... trying to take a nap.” The words “... practically wrote themselves,” she said. She later quipped that the song “... had been done to death on radio and TV.”
The song became famous when it was recorded by the Trapp Family Singers, the inspiration for the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The Sound of Music.”
“Little Drummer Boy” has been a hit for several artists. The most notable performance was created by the unlikely combination of Bing Crosby and David Bowie, who recorded this as a duet with “Peace On Earth” for Crosby’s TV Christmas special in 1982.
The song was also the basis for the animated TV special in 1968 about an orphaned child who goes on a search to find his camel, which he discovers when he finds the three wise men.