Boney M’s Liz Mitchell ‘hit the jackpot’ with mega hit Mary’s Boy Child
The lead singer of the group in the 1970s has told of the lengths they went to to create the hit song 40 years ago.
Boney M singer Liz Mitchell has said she “hit the jackpot” with the group’s enduring Christmas hit Mary’s Boy Child as she marked the song’s 40th anniversary.
The festive hit is one of the best-selling singles ever in the UK, having sold around two million copies, and is one of the best-known hits from the vocal disco group.
But Mitchell said it was a last-minute decision to record and release the song in November 1978, and that it was somewhat laborious to create.
She said: “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.”
She added: “Some people play the lottery all their life and never win a penny – others play once and hit the jackpot, and that’s how it felt with Mary’s Boy Child.”
Boney M were created by German record producer Frank Farian in the mid-1970s and saw Mitchell star alongside fellow lead vocalist Marcia Barrett and singers Maizie Williams and Bobby Farrell.
The group sold more than 150 million records globally during their 10-year stint, before splitting in 1986.
Their version of Mary’s Boy Child, originally recorded by Harry Belafonte in 1956, was called Mary’s Boy Child/Oh My Lord and included a new section of music by Farian.
It topped the charts for four weeks and became the Christmas number one in the UK, but its success was global.
Mitchell said: “Our record company’s pressing plant in West Germany couldn’t keep up with demand for our records, so they asked for help from a pressing plant in East Berlin, and then another in Poland – which were both behind the Iron Curtain.
“Word spread about us in what was then of course the Soviet Union, and we received a personal invite from President Brezhnev to perform there, which no other Western act had previously done.”
Mitchell said that they played 10 shows at the Kremlin in Moscow in a week due to unprecedented demand, and that they were given unlikely tips from the locals to battle the freezing temperatures.
She said: “We then had to perform in Red Square in front of the iconic Saint Basil’s Cathedral in our white, furry Mary’s Boy Child video outfits – which looked cosy in the video but were actually paper thin, meaning we had no protection from the -30°C temperatures.
“So the locals washed our hands in vodka, telling us it would keep out the cold, while advising that drinking it would keep us warm on the inside too.”