So many of our childhood memories are associated with the senses, or with fragments of experience. For me, much of the Christmas preparation I remembered with my mother’s vinyl records.
My mom loved to sing. Any time she was awake was a good time to sing. But she didn’t listen to the radio or to records very often. Perhaps she enjoyed the freedom of setting her own tempo and letting nature give her sweet, natural alto the most comfortable key.
But there were a few LPs that came out at Christmas time. Youtube has given me a chance to engage the memories.
I want to begin with a single from a non-Christmas LP. Mom loved Harry Belafonte, and his rendition of “Mary’s Boy Child” remains by far my favorite.
Belafonte was born American, but spent much of his childhood with grandparents in Jamaica. He was a (perhaps the) central figure in the Calypso rage of the 1950s. Belafonte’s clear voice and crisp diction bring the text to the front of a gentle Calypso rhythm to create a song that simultaneously is humble worship, and infectious rhythm.
Mom, wherever you are, let’s enjoy Harry Belafonte together again this year. Merry Christmas.