Songs of Christmas…Do You Hear What I Hear?


This is part 20 of an Advent/Christmas series titled “Songs of Christmas.” For other parts of the series see the index. The index also contains the introduction for the series.

Right up front I want to say, this may be my favorite Christmas carol story. And, it comes from a pretty unlikely pair. Who would have ever thought a former Nazi draftee from France would team up with a Jew from Massachusetts to write a Christmas carol, but that is exactly what happened.

Noel Regney found himself drafted into the Nazi army, but he didn’t stay there long. He deserted and found his way to the French Underground where he joined in with the Resistance to fight off the Nazis. Regney became a double agent and even leading the Germans into an ambush where he was shot in the arm, but recovered.

What Regney wanted to do more than anything else was to write classical music. He wasn’t interested in music that might make its way to the top of the Hit Parade and then fall back down to oblivion. He wanted to write music that would last.

Following the war, in an effort to make such music, Regney immigrated to the United States. One day in the late 1950s he wandered into New York’s Beverly Hotel. In the dining room he saw and heard a beautiful woman playing popular music on the piano. He was so taken with the woman, even though he spoke little English, he went up and introduced himself. Within a month, even though he had limited speaking skills in English and she spoke no French, the two were married. Her name was Gloria Shayne.

Even musically, the two seemed an unlikely pair. He was interested in classical music and she wanted to write and play rock and roll. Her preference was well founded as she wrote an early hit in “Goodbye Cruel World,” recorded by James Darrin. The couple did produce some material together with the songs, “Rain, Rain Go Away,” “Sweet Little Darlin'” and “Another Go Round.”

Regney was haunted by what he saw and experienced in World War II. He truly hoped the devastation was such that it would be the war to end all wars. When in a matter of a few short years he saw much of the world plunged into battle again in Korea and then Vietnam, Regney was deeply troubled by what he saw on the evening news.

In 1962, in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the very real threat of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union, Regney found a quiet moment, away from all he experienced in the past and what he saw in the presence. During that quiet, he wrote a poem. It was his plea for peace in the chaos of a world seemingly gone crazy. Regney said he was inspired to write the words, “Pray for peace people everywhere” as he watched mothers pushing their babies in strollers along New York streets.

Regney gave the poem to his wife and asked her to write the music for it. That was an unusual thing between these two. When they collaborated, it was almost always the other way around. But Regney told his wife he wanted her to write the music because he didn’t want it to be classical.

She left and went shopping. She said that on her way to Bloomingdale’s she had the beginning of the song in her mind. When she returned home and played it for Regney, she had inadvertently added a beat in the first line. Regney made a slight change to the poem as he feared the loss of one of the most beautiful tunes he had ever heard. The change took the first line from, “Said the wind to the…” to “Said the night wind to the…”

Shayne also wanted Regney to change one other line. She argued that people in the United States wouldn’t get the line, “…with a tail as big as a kite.” Regney stood by his writing and refused to change it. He was right on this one. People loved the line.

Once completed the couple to the song to a New York music agent and the Harry Simone Chorale, famous at the time for their recording of “The Little Drummer Boy” four years earlier, recorded the song in October of 1962. It was released in time for the 1962 Christmas season. It was an instant hit.

A year later, the song became a Christmas standard when Bing Crosby made his recording. Since that time, a long and varied list of performers has recorded “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Years later Regney and Shayne both said their favorite version of the song was by Robert Goulet. In his version of the song, when he came to the line, “Pray for peace, people everywhere,” he almost shouted the lyrics. Both Regney and Shayne also said, they could hardly sing the song all the way through because of the power the song had over their emotions.

Regney had not had a great deal of commercial success prior to the release of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” He had always said he wanted to write something meaningful, significant, enduring and beautiful. Mission accomplished.

Here is the thing, God brought together two people from different walks in life, different parts of the world and different faith traditions. God even switched their usual roles. Some might say the result was magical. I would say the result was Divine. God made the unlikely beautiful.

Where have you seen God do the unlikely and change the world in a significant way?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved


Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Collins, Andrew, Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Gant, Andrew, The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Joy to the World: The Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols, Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1999.ël_Regney

Published by drjkbroyles

I love Mike Ashcraft's book, "My One Word." For the past nine years I have participated and encouraged others to participate to in the "My One Word" Challenge. My first word was discipline was my word the first year. Since then my word has been focus, sight, jungle, peace, concentration, serve, genuine and this year is fit. I seek to be fit for my health, my family, my church, my ministries. I seek to be fit in any are of my life where God might point to me. I also have a nickname, "Dr. B." When I was a public high school teacher, Dr. B. is what most of my students called me, at least in my presence. I am still called that by many people though I no longer teach in public schools. I am the author of "Average Joe: With an Extraordinary Story" (available on Amazon). The book fits into the genre of "Biblical Fiction" or "Christian Fiction" and features some of the Bible's lesser known characters. The name of my blog is, "Fork in the Road." Life is filled with forks in the road. It isn't a matter of if we encounter a fork in the road, but when will we and how many will we experience in a lifetime. I love to strum my guitar. I am not a great guitar player but I enjoy it. I also enjoy writing music. I get excited with I feel a new song emerging. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog, "Bishop" in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 30 years as a United Methodist pastor, serving churches all over east and southeast Texas, from just north of Tyler to south of Houston, from the Gulf Coast to east of Madisonville. I currently serve Perritte Memorial UMC in Nacogdoches. I spent one year in the classroom, teaching High School government, economics, psychology, and sociology. Cindy and I have been married for 43 years. We have two grown sons and six grandchildren, three boys and three girls. I enjoy preaching and all it's aspects from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading. I have dabble in drawing and "painting" with pastels as well as woodworking and woodcarving. My current projects are two ukuleles. I collect, repair and restore guitars too. I play the guitar (badly, but I still do) I also enjoy working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, TX, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. This blog started out as devotional writings. In August of 2020, I made a major change to the blog, switching to a daily theme format. Sunday Sermon-usually my manuscript sermon Miscellaneous Monday-misc. writing, poetry, ministry Tuesday Thoughts-Devotion Wed. with Wesleys-hist. & theol. of early Methodists TED Talk Thursday-Video & appl. in current theology Five for Friday-5 things I've seen & my thoughts Sing-Along Sat. - Usually a new song I have written I write, "Strumming a G-Chord with Dr.B." to get my thoughts onto something permanent. After all, they say, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. Seeking the Genuine, Keith Lufkin, Texas August 2020

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