Composer, Lyricist, Teacher. Although she produced over 600 compositions, including seven operas to her own texts, she is remembered today for one song: the enduring Christmas standard "The Little Drummer Boy" (1941). Davis was born in St. Joseph, Missouri. She studied at Wellesley College, at the New England Conservatory of Music, and in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. For most of her life she taught music at the Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts and at the Shady Hill School for Girls in Philadelphia. The bulk of her output consists of practical works for girls' choruses and "The Little Drummer Boy", originally entitled "The Carol of the Drum", started out as such a piece. Davis claimed it came to her one afternoon while she was trying to take a nap. The song was recorded twice (once by the Trapp Family Singers) before the 1958 version with the Harry Simeone Chorale made it a chart-topping holiday smash. Since then it has been covered by innumerable artists, perhaps most famously as a 1977 duet by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. It was also adapted into a Rankin-Bass animated special (1968) which aired on NBC for many years. Arrangers Harry Simeone and Henry Onorati are often given co-author credit but this has been widely disputed, as have assertions that Davis borrowed the melody from an old Czech tune. In the end she seemed rather annoyed by her only hit, saying it had been "done to death on radio and TV". A longtime member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), she bequeathed her royalties to the Wellesley College Music Department.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards