Boney M are the harmonious voices behind some of the most recognisable hits of the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Their unique brand of glittering disco-pop, packed with sparkling synths, bumping beats and irresistible vocal hooks, propelled them to international fame as one of the biggest-selling pop groups in musical history. In this retrospective, we take a look back at one of their most famous recordings, the ever-popular Christmas single ‘Mary’s Boy Child’.
Originally formed in Germany by writer and producer Frank Farian, the group broke into the mainstream in 1976 after their debut single ‘Daddy Cool’ hit No. 1 in several European countries. In the years since the heights of their success, Boney M have released several massively popular compilation albums and greatest hits collections, firmly establishing themselves as legendary artists that have enduring popularity in the modern day.
‘Rasputin’, ‘Rivers of Babylon’, ‘Daddy Cool’, ‘Sunny’, ‘Ma Baker’, ‘Belfast’, ‘Brown Girl in the Ring’, – the timeless hit singles of disco outfit Boney M have enjoyed enduring popularity since their chart-topping reign in the 70’s and 80’s. Still regularly played at events and nightclubs across the world, these Eurodance classics came to define the sound of an era, bringing them worldwide acclaim and selling over 150 million records. However, it was their beloved Christmas track ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ that became the UK’s fastest-selling single and the 11th best-selling song of all time, selling millions of copies across the globe.
The timeless Boney M track is a cover of a 1956 Christmas song, originally written by Jester Hairston. It was first recorded by Harry Belafonte, reaching No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart in November 1957 and becoming the first single to sell over one million copies in the UK alone. However, it was the recording made by Boney M in 1978 that helped to bring the song to global notoriety, enshrining it as a Christmas classic beloved by fans all over the world. It has been covered by countless other acts since it’s debut and remains a popular Christmas carol among festive revellers.
Watch Liz Mitchell perform ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ on ITV’s This Morning:
Boney M’s version of ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ features elements from Hairston’s original track, interpolated with newly written material: this is why the track’s official title is ‘Mary’s Boy Child / Oh My Lord’. Boney M member Marcia Barrett has said that “”I always thought of Boney M. as being put together by a spiritual force, and we liked doing spiritual songs. When we did Mary’s Boy Child, we added a bit spontaneously at the end. As it worked, we left it in.” It has been reported that the recording of the song was a last-minute, spontaneous decision, and that the track was hurriedly recorded in an effort to hit the shops before Christmas. The song was a bigger success than anyone could have imagined, topping the UK Singles Chart upon its release and becoming the 1978 Christmas number one.
Speaking to the Daily Express about the track’s anniversary, Liz Mitchell said: “”Others play once and hit the jackpot and that’s how it felt with Mary’s Boy Child. I was in the right place at the right time. It was only decided to record it at the last minute and although singing a track in the studio more than 50 times in one session – including lead, backing vocals, harmonies and all the oohs and aahs – was very hard work, we created something very special which has endured over the past four decades. Every year people of all ages come up and tell how much the song reminds them of precious family time together at Christmas. It’s truly magical.”