“Do You Hear What I Hear?” is an anti-war song—written while America was on the brink of nuclear war.
The song was written by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne—talk about Christmas-ready names!—during October of 1961. At that time, the U.S. was facing down the Soviet Union over some medium-range missiles on an island nation in the Caribbean. The Cuban Missile Crisis weighed heavily on the married songwriting team (who switched their traditional music-lyric roles for this song)—Shayne was especially moved by the sight of mothers pushing baby carriages on a city street.
A single—recorded by the same chorale group that had a radio hit with “The Little Drummer Boy” a few years earlier—was released a few weeks later. The song’s plea for peace and “goodness and light” struck a chord with an anxious public and sold more than 250,000 copies—and was soon part of the modern holiday canon.