As soon as November 1 hits, the stores and radio stations begin to pump Christmas music. Recently, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” made a resurgence. The song sang by Gayla Peevey in 1953 hit No. 24 on the Billboard charts. Peevey would go on to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show and on American Bandstand with Dick Clark. We interviewed Peevey in 2018 and talked with her about why she decided to give up show business after high school and how the hippopotamus song made its comeback.
Peevey reflects on why she gave up show business after high school.
“If things would have been going gangbusters in my singing my career I wouldn’t have. You know, I had some success with the new records, but nothing huge. So I decided to hang it up. I was still singing in church and that’s where I decided to use my talent for the next jillion years. I really did feel like that was what I needed to do. I’m sure that was God leading me. I think otherwise I would have felt frustrated, but I really felt at peace with it. I knew this was the next phase for me. I had only gone to college for one semester before I married my husband, cliff. After I got married, I finished college. Cliff put me through college. Before we got married he had never heard of my song I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas [laughter]. I really didn’t talk about my childhood and those years of being in the limelight after I moved to San Diego. I made new friends and build a life with people who knew me for years and years and never knew I was the one who sang the hippopotamus song. My friends just knew me as someone who was active in church and sang solos. It was great. I never really brought it up. One reason is that it made me feel like a has-been. You know, like you were something when you were a kid, but what happened? That was the feeling I had. It was something in my childhood that was great. Now, moving on.”
Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:8-10
Peevey shares about her surprise paycheck 50 years later and how she feels God was behind the resurgence of the hippopotamus song.
“About fifteen years ago, I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, literally got rediscovered…I didn’t quite know how to react at first because to me it was such a thing of the past. So I started going interviews. Last year, The Associated Press came out and did a big article. The New York Times did a big half page article. I have been on a couple of TV shows…I was kind of resistant at first, because I thought, ‘Well, what have you done lately? This is a thing of the past.’ I finally decided to just go with it. Here’s what I really felt like. At this stage in my life, I felt like whatever big thing could happen in my life probably already happened [laughter]. In fact, I was feeling a little bit depressed. But I believe in the deepest part of my heart that God just brought that hippo song back to sort of be like one of my favorite Bible verses; Galatians 6:9. ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’…I really felt like God heard my prayers when I felt sad. He brought this back to make me feel like I had accomplished something in my life and I could be rewarded for it. I hadn’t really received any compensation from the hippo song or really any of my songs. Back then, they would take your royalties and use them to pay for the expenses to promote the record. Then through my daughter, I found out Hallmark was making ornaments and cards with me singing in them. There was all this merchandise with me singing in it. With a little research, she found out that my contract was being held by Sony. She checked with them and all of a suddenly I got this big check for almost one hundred grand delivered from them. It blew me away! It can’t see it being anything except from God was saying, ‘You have been a faithful servant, this is the harvest you are finally going to reap.’
Be faithful. Whatever God has called you to, be faithful. It can be hard sometimes when there aren’t immediate results or things don’t go quite as we anticipated. Pray and ask God to give you His perspective. Take time this week to reflect on the different stories in the Bible where the characters needed faith to endure what God had called them to. Read David’s story (1&2 Samuel). God had called David to be king, but David would have to rely on God’s promise as the current king would try to kill him.
Be faithful with your talents. God has entrusted each of us with unique gifts and abilities. Don’t compare yourself to another person. Instead, be thankful for what God has blessed you with. Take time this week to pray and thank God for the different gifts and abilities He has given you. Ask Him how He wants you to be using those things to glorify Him.
Share a Christmas song with a friend. Christmas can be a great time to reach out to a friend or family member that doesn’t know Christ. Share one of your favorite Christmas songs with them and why it is special to you. If they are open to it, invite them to Christmas service or an outreach event at your church.
To read our entire interview with Gayla Peevey, click here.