Was “Do You Hear What I Hear?” written, well, here?
Master composer Noel Regney, who lived on High Ridge Avenue and who died in December 2002 at age 80, wrote the popular Christmas song “Do You Hear What I Hear?” largely in response to the Cuban missile crisis.
In October 1962, at the height of the standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union over nuclear missiles in Cuba, Regney was meeting with his producer in New York City. “Before I left, we turned on the radio to see if we had been obliterated,” he reported years later. Regney’s anxiety melted into bliss when, as he walked down the street, he saw two babies in side-by-side strollers smiling at each other.
“All of a sudden my mood was extraordinary,” he explained to an interviewer. When he got home, Regney, a French resistance fighter during World War II, began to write some lyrics. He says he thought of the green fields of his native France, the innocence of newborn lambs, and the peacefulness of the first Christmas. He handed the words to his wife Gloria Shayne, who wrote the music.
The result is “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Released in November 1962, it sold 250,000 copies in its first week, and Bing Crosby’s 1963 recording of it sold more than a million copies in its first year. Regney also composed such classics as “Rain, Rain, Go Away” and “What’s the Use of Crying.”