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Gloria Baker, 84, composed Christmas hit as peace plea

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Margalit Fox
New York Times News Service / March 17, 2008

NEW YORK - Gloria Shayne Baker, who composed the hit Christmas song "Do You Hear What I Hear?," died March 6 at her home in Stamford, Conn. A native of Brookline, Mass., she was 84.

The cause was cancer, said her daughter, Gabrielle Regney, a professor at Curry College in Milton.

Written in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, "Do You Hear What I Hear?" was intended to be a plea for peace. The song had music by Mrs. Baker and lyrics by Noel Regney, to whom she was then married. (This division of labor was a switch for them: In most of their other collaborations, including "Rain, Rain, Go Away," he wrote the music and she the lyrics.)

"Do You Hear What I Hear?," which tells the story of the Nativity, has sold tens of millions of records. It has been recorded most famously by Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Robert Goulet, Johnny Mathis, and the Harry Simeone Chorale, as well as by Pat Boone, Glen Campbell, Kenny G, Bob Hope, Whitney Houston, Mahalia Jackson, Jim Nabors, Kate Smith, John Tesh, the Tropical Flavor Steel Drum Band, and the US Air Force Symphony Orchestra, among hundreds of others.

Gloria Adele Shain was born in Brookline on Sept. 4, 1923; she changed the spelling of her last name early in her career.

She earned a bachelor's degree from the Boston University School of Music and afterward worked as a pianist, arranger, and background vocalist for composers like Irving Berlin and Stephen Sondheim.

In later years, she accompanied the tenor Jan Peerce.

In 1951, she married Regney; they divorced in 1973. Her second husband, William Baker, died in 2001. In addition to her daughter, Gabrielle, Ms. Baker leaves another child from her first marriage, Paul Regney; a brother, Myron Shain; a sister, Thelma Wisefield; a half-sister, Etta Sandler; four stepchildren, Carolyn Ohlson, William Baker Jr., Alan Baker, and Steven Baker; one grandchild; and 10 step-grandchildren. Noel Regney died in 2002.

Mrs. Baker's other credits include the music and lyrics for "Goodbye, Cruel World," which was recorded by James Darren. With Jerry Keller, she wrote "Almost There," recorded by Andy Williams; and with Mary Candy and Eddie Deane, she wrote "The Men in My Little Girl's Life," recorded by Mike Douglas.

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