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Bowie & Crosby’s iconic duet “Little Drummer Boy” — who woulda thought…

As you probably know by now, Davie Bowie has passed due to a battle with cancer. Bowie has always been one of my favorite artists. I did go to one of his concerts — his Glass Spider Tour in 1987 which was shortly after his release of "Never Let Me Down." It didn’t go over well with the critics, but I loved it. For that matter, Bowie could have released an album made with nothing but recordings of his farts as musical notes and I would have loved it.

One of my favorite songs, however, isn’t one of Bowie’s songs but rather when he sang "The Little Drummer Boy" as a duet with Bing Crosby. It was about the most unlikely pairing imaginable: gender-bending glam rocker David Bowie and stodgy crooner Bing Crosby. Music from Bowie’s era is often thought of as a form of rebellion to the music and lifestyle of the days of Crosby. So here we have these two totally opposite people setting aside their difference, joining their golden voices to create an incredible, unique version of a classic holiday song.

Bing Crosby & David Bowie – Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy 1977

The track was recorded on September 11, 1977, for Crosby’s then-upcoming television special, Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas. The pair exchanged scripted dialogue about what they each do for their family Christmases, before singing "Little Drummer Boy" with a new counterpoint with original lyrics written for the special, "Peace on Earth".

According to co-writer Ian Fraser, Bowie balked at singing "Little Drummer Boy": "I hate this song. Is there something else I could sing?", Fraser recalls Bowie telling him. Fraser, along with songwriter David Bowie, Larry Grossman and the special’s scriptwriter, Buz Kohan, then wrote "Peace on Earth" as a counterpoint to "Little Drummer Boy". Crosby performed "Little Drummer Boy", while Bowie sang the new tune "Peace on Earth", which they reportedly performed after less than an hour of rehearsal.

A few days after the taping, Crosby said of Bowie, "clean-cut kid and a real fine asset to the show. He sings well, has a great voice and reads lines well."

Crosby died on October 14, nearly five weeks after recording the special at Elstree Studios near London; in the U.S., the show aired just over a month later, on November 30, 1977, on CBS. In the United Kingdom, the special first aired on December 24, 1977 on ITV. The timing led to rumors that the duet was "computer-generated."


References:
Wikipedia: Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy
Yahoo! The Story Behind Bowie and Bing’s Offbeat Christmas Classic

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