“Do You Hear What I Hear?” was originally written in 1962 by husband-and-wife songwriting team Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker. Per the NY Times, the song was meant to be a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Harry Simeone Chorale released its first recorded version in 1962. It tells the Nativity story and went on to be recorded by multiple artists and sell tens of millions of copies over the years.
The song's verses flow in a fun, storytelling progression with the “night wind” talking to the “little lamb” in the first verse, followed by the “little lamb” talking to the “Shepard boy” in the second verse, the “Shepard boy” talking to the “mighty king” in the next verse and so on. There’s a buoyant wonder and hopeful message in the song that celebrates Christ’s birth as bringing “goodness and light.” Below are our picks for the five best “Do You Hear What I Hear?” covers.
Carrie Underwood is very candid about her Christian faith and several of her albums contain faith-based songs, or songs in which her faith is strongly implied. Her cover of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” first appeared as the lead track on a 2007 compilation album of various country artists called Hear Something Country Christmas from Sony Legacy. She also included it in a 2008 Walmart exclusive 2-CD deluxe edition of her second studio album, Carnival Ride as one of five Christmas tracks. Underwood's soft, country sound and soaring vocals on the beloved Christmas classic are warm and wondrous.
4. Vince Gill
Country music superstar Vince Gill has won an astounding 21 Grammy Awards across 44 nominations, garnering the most Grammy wins to date by a country artist. His rendition of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” hails from his chart-topping 1993 holiday album Let There Be Peace on Earth. His version oozes heartfelt sincerity and a sense of immediacy that draws us into the story of the song. His vocals are simple, pure and reflect his sweet, signature tone.
3. Idina Menzel
Tony Award-winning Broadway songstress Idina Menzel included this song as the first track on her 2014 Billboard 200 Top 20 Christmas album, Holiday Wishes. Her theater influences shine brightly on her dynamic rendition of this classic musical Nativity tale. She vibrantly conveys the song’s story with crystal-clear, sparkling vocal precision and indelible warmth.
Late, great Grammy-winner and R&B legend Whitney Houston covered this song as one of various artists who appeared on the 1987 inaugural album in the A Very Special Christmas Series which was produced for album proceeds to help benefit the Special Olympics. Few vocalists can rival the sparkling, soulful, depth Houston gives to her rendition of this song. Her backup singers add a beautiful dynamic and dimension to the song as well.
1. Bing Crosby
Legendary singer and actor Bing Crosby recorded his version of the song in 1963 for his album I Wish You a Merry Christmas and he sang it on a Bob Hope television Christmas special the same year. If any single vocalist could be nicknamed “Mr. Christmas,” it’s arguably Bing Crosby, who sold more than 100 million copies of his indelible Christmas classic “White Christmas” alone. His version of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” may arguably be deemed the “signature” version of the song, as it has appeared on many compilation Christmas albums through the years and he was the first solo artist to record it. Crosby’s silky-smooth, engaging narrative vocal style leads us through the magical Nativity story like no other. Hence, he earns the top-ranking cover in our list.