This is a song that many love. It’s certainly a favourite song of some BCPC members.
Do You Hear What I Hear?” tells a story loosely based upon the story of the Nativity of Jesus as told in the Gospel of Matthew, incorporating fragments of the annunciation to the shepherds from the Gospel of Luke, though Jesus is never mentioned by name or explicitly identified. A “night wind” tells a lamb of a star, following which the lamb tells his young shepherd that he also hears a loud song. They are each led to a “mighty king,” whom they tell of a child in the cold and ask to bring the child silver and gold (much as the Biblical Magi, which in tradition with prophecies in the Book of Isaiah and Psalm 72 are often characterized as kings, did with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh). The king proclaims a prayer of peace and announces that the child will “bring goodness and light”.
The lyrics are inconsistent with the response of Herod the Great, the reigning monarch over the region at the time, who feared the arrival of a new “king of the Jews” and ordered the child massacred. The Magi did not receive word of Christ’s birth from the shepherds (who instead went directly to Bethlehem), but by noticing an astronomical event, interpreting it as a new Jewish king, and going to Jerusalem, where Herod informed them of Old Testament prophecies and pointed them toward Bethlehem
Regney wrote the lyrics for the song, while Shayne composed the music in October 1962.
This was an unusual arrangement for the two writers. Usually, it was Shayne who wrote the lyrics for their songs while Regney composed the music, as they did when they wrote a song based on the classic children’s song “Rain Rain Go Away”.
Regney was inspired to write the lyrics “Said the night wind to the little lamb, ‘Do you see what I see?'” and “Pray for peace, people everywhere” after watching babies being pushed in strollers on the sidewalks of New York City.Shayne stated in an interview years later that neither could personally perform the entire song at the time they wrote it because of the emotions surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis: “Our little song broke us up. You must realize there was a threat of war at the time”.