December 3. “Mary’s Boy Child” by Jester Hairston (1901-2000)
Long time ago in Bethlehem So the Holy Bible say
Mary’s Boy Child, Jesus Christ Was born on Christmas Day
Hark now, hear the angels say New king born today
And man will live forever more, Because of Christmas Day.
While shepherds watched their flocks by night They saw a bright new shining star
And hear a choir from heaven sing The music came from afar. Refrain.
Now Joseph and his wife Mary Came to Bethlehem that night
They found no place to bear her Child Not a single room was in sight.
By and by they found a little nook In a stable all forlorn
And in a manger cold and dark Mary’s little Boy Child was born. Refrain.
Trumpets sound and angels sing Listen to what they say
That man will live forevermore Because of Christmas Day. Refrain.
Jester Hairston was an American composer, songwriter, arranger, choral conductor and actor. The grandson of American slaves, Jester dedicated his life to preserving Negro Spirituals, and the history behind them.
In recent years he is probably best remembered for his role as Rollie Forbes, in the 1980s sitcom AMEN.
Jester Hairston appeared in more than 50 films, including In The Heat of the Night, To Kill a Mocking Bird, and Lilies of the Field for which he composed the song Amen. Hairston wrote music scores for almost 30 films.
In 1956, Hairston wrote Mary's Boy Child. It was recorded that same year by both Harry Belafonte and Mahalia Jackson, and has since been performed by multiple recording artists. The song tells the familiar Christmas story in a melody reminiscent of the music Hairston wanted the world to remember: the Negro Spiritual.