Unlikely Duo, Bing Crosby and David Bowie, Bridge Generation And Genre Gaps - To Create An Unexpectedly Beautiful Christmas Classic

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December 06, 2017

It’s that time of year again when the airwaves overflow with the joyous sounds of Christmas music. All manner of styles and artists can be heard from dawn until dusk, as they bring forth their unique renderings of some of the best-known and well-loved seasonal songs.

From classic hymns like, “Oh, Holy Night” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” to more contemporary tunes like, “Believe” and “All I Want for Christmas is You,” you’re bound to stumble across your favorites if you listen long enough.

 

Although most people admit that Christmas wouldn’t be the same without hearing these tried-and-true tunes, some complain that they tire of hearing the same songs over and over again. While I’ll agree that a few of the melodies start wearing out their welcome by about the second week of December, there is one song that I eagerly anticipate and never tire of hearing.

Have you heard it?

 

Bing Crosby was the most popular recording artist of the 20th century, crooning his way to a staggering one billion records, albums, tapes, and CDs during his career. He was known for his squeaky-clean image, as well as the famous bass-baritone voice, beautifully featured in his number one hit, "White Christmas."

A devoted family man, Crosby often included his family in his on-air appearances. In fact, for many years, up to and including the year of his death, 1977, he hosted an annual Christmas Special in which he, guest stars, and his wife and children performed. It was during the taping of his final Christmas program that we received the gift of this wonderful song.

 

If ever there was an exact opposite to Bing Crosby, it had to have been David Bowie, who had a much different take on the music scene. Known for his “daring songwriting and broody, hard-rock sound” (Wikipedia) he definitely did not follow the straight and narrow path that Bing did.

Bowie created what he described as “the ultimate pop star” with his over-the-top portrayal of the flamboyant, orange-haired, androgynous character, “Ziggy Stardust.” He continued blazing trails throughout his career, pioneering “glam rock” in the 1970s. When he was invited to perform on Crosby’s 1977 Christmas program he, initially, declined.

 

I would never have thought these two stars would ever appear together - on any stage, or in any format. Yet, somehow they managed to find each other. By transcending the age-difference and combining diverse styles and genres, they've created one of the most beloved Christmas classics ever - 1977’s “The Little Drummer Boy (Peace on Earth).”

Bowie was slated to appear as a performer on the 1977 Christmas special but, when Bing suggested the two perform a duet of “The Little Drummer Boy” Bowie refused, claiming to hate the song. Determined to make the unique pairing happen, Crosby instructed songwriters to come up with an arrangement that would be more palatable to their guest star.

In a little over an hour, they had penned the brand new tune, “Peace on Earth” which, when woven into the existing melody of “Little Drummer Boy” resulted in a magical masterpiece, unlike anything ever heard before. Then, when the two exquisite voices melted together during the television performance, a phenomenon was born.

 

I am so glad that the producers and writers were able to find a way to bring ‘Bing and Bowie’ together, if only for the purpose of leaving behind this timeless classic. Both artists are gone now, but their legacies live on through their music, not the least of which is the beautiful song, “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy.”

Click on the video, below, to watch the two legends performing my favorite Christmas carol! I have a hunch it just might become your favorite, too!

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