September 11, 1977, one of music’s most unlikley collaborations came together when singer David Bowie stood beside Hollywood legend Bing Crosby. Together they recorded what was to become a Christmas classic: Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.
When asked about it later, Bowie related he only did it because his mother liked Crosby. Producers and others involved in the recording session described the event as “surreal,” a “historic encounter.”
The encounter was for an upcoming CBS special, Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas. Crosby was a legendary singer and Bowie was known mostly for Ziggy Stardust and Major Tom. Crosby was touring with his family in England at the time. The session with Bowie was one of his last. The legendary singer died of a massive heart attack on a Spanish golf course less than a month later. The show aired on November 30th, six weeks after Crosby’s death.
Bowie balked at singing the Little Drummer Boy. He recalled it was one of his least favorite pieces of Christmas music. The producers called on the songwriting talents of Ian Fraser and Larry Grossman to come up with a counterpoint to Crosby singing Drummer Boy.
The result was Peace on Earth which Bowie sang in harmonic sync with Crosby’s pah-rum-pah-pum-pum. They rehearsed the composition for less than an hour before nailing the song on the first take.
On its release as a single, Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth climbed to #3 on the U.K. charts. It has become a staple of Christmas radio in the years since.
On the same Bing Crosby Christmas special, David Bowie sang, Heroes.
This is rare footage of that appearance. (It occurs to me… Can you call it rare if it’s readily available on YouTube?)