Share This Episode
Our American Stories Lee Habeeb Logo

The Story Behind Bing And Bowie's Christmas Duet

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
June 27, 2023 3:02 am

The Story Behind Bing And Bowie's Christmas Duet

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1556 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

June 27, 2023 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Bing Crosby was 73, David Bowie was 30, what happened during their encounter in 1977 is so special the video on YouTube has attained "viral" status. This is the story behind the event.

Support the show (

See for privacy information.


I'm Malcolm Grabber. I live way out in the country. I drive everywhere.

And you know what scares me? That feeling of finding myself stuck on the side of the road. But now all of us can avoid that pain by getting our vehicle the part it needs before that breakdown oh-no moment. With eBay Guaranteed Fit and over 122 million parts and accessories, you can make sure your ride stays running smoothly. For the parts and accessories that fit your vehicle, just look for the green check. Get the right parts, the right fit, and the right prices. That's right. Eligible items only.

Exclusions apply. Chumba.

Live the Chumba life. No bridges necessary. We're prohibited by law. T-plus terms and conditions apply. See website for details.

Ethnic and racial divides as well. This one is the story behind David Bowie and Bing Crosby's unlikely Hollywood duet. There have been otter musical collaborations in the past. In 2001, Elton John performed with Eminem at the 2001 Grammys.

In 1984, Spanish pop singer Julio Iglesias and West Texan troubadour Willie Nelson recorded To All the Girls I've Loved Before. But of all the unlikely duets dotting pop music history, the one that brought together 73-year-old American crooner Bing Crosby and 30-year-old British glam rocker David Bowie is the best. Their collaboration in the fall of 1977 proved to be one of the most enduring recordings of either man's career and an instant Christmas classic.

Indeed, the story of how Peace on Earth, Little Drummer Boy came to be is itself classic. The two men could not have been more different. They came from different countries and different generations.

And the two men had radically different ideas about almost everything, including fashion, politics, sexuality, and music. So how did the two come to make music history? It turns out that Crosby was on tour in Great Britain at the time, and his management team figured such a duet would be perfect for his upcoming CBS TV special, which would come to be known as Bing Crosby's Merry Old Christmas. Bowie would be one of several pop guests for the special, along with Oliver's star Ron Moody and model Twiggy. The producers used such appearances to help keep the show and the star himself relevant. Bowie was a huge international star at the time, but Crosby's team threw in an added incentive to lure him in.

They agreed to promote the video of the glam rocker's latest single, Heroes, during the broadcast. Bowie ended up agreeing to appear, but not because of the negotiating skills of his management team. It was Bowie's mom who sealed the deal. She was a huge fan of the aging crooner, and Bowie wanted to make mom happy. Crosby, too, was influenced by his family. His teenage children were huge Bowie fans and wanted more than anything in life to be on the set to see the avant garde rocker singing with their dad.

On September 11, 1977, they got their wish, but things didn't start off propitiously. Here's Bing Crosby's daughter. The doors opened and David walked in with his wife. They were both wearing full-length mink coats. They had matching full makeup, and their hair was bright red, and we were thinking, oh my God.

To say there were tensions on the set would be an understatement. Crosby's son Nathaniel remembered the producers being shocked by Bowie's appearance. Here's what Bowie's son Nathaniel told reporters at the time. It almost didn't happen. The producers told him to take the lipstick off and the earring out.

It was just incredible to see the contrast. It didn't take long for Bowie to acquiesce, and soon the work began. The writers got to work on the script and created a skit that took advantage of the intergenerational differences between the two singers.

The premise was simple. Crosby, playing himself, walks through a London mansion of relatives to find out who just rang the doorbell. The young man at the door is Bowie, playing himself.

The two continue the schtick, gently poking fun at themselves and the fleeting nature of fame. Tell me, do you ever listen to any of the older fellas? Oh yeah, sure.

I like John Lennon and the other one with Harry Nilsson. Oh, you go back that far, huh? Yeah, I'm not as young as I look.

None of us is these days. In fact, I've got a six-year-old son, and he really gets excited around the Christmas holiday thing. Do you go in for any of the traditional things in the Bowie household Christmas time? Oh yeah, most of them really. Presents, tree, decorations, agents sliding down the chimney. What?

I was just seeing if you were paying attention. Actually, our family do most of the things that other families do. We sing the same songs. Do you?

I even have a go at Christmas. You do, huh? And this one. This is my son's favorite. Do you know this one?

Oh, I do indeed. It's a lovely thing. The script then called for the two men to cozy up to a baby-grin piano and begin singing Little Drummer Boy. That's when everything turned south. Is there something else we could sing? Composer Ian Frazier remembered Bowie asking as they reviewed the script.

We didn't know what to do. With no time to squander, Frazier, along with co-writers Buzz Cohen and Larry Grossman, did what artists in a jam have always done. They improvised, creating an original song, Peace on Earth, and an arrangement that merged the new song with the old Christmas classic. Bowie loved the melody, and he agreed to perform it. One problem, the musical one was solved, and the producers somehow managed to get Bowie to dress in a more subdued manner, abandoning the makeup and colorful clothing for something more, well, subtle.

Something more traditional. Soon, it was recording time. The entire set was on edge. What would happen? How would these two very different men react to each other?

What would it look like? What on earth would it sound like? Crosby's daughter recalled the moment the two men sat down to rehearse. They sat at the piano, and Dad was a little nervous. But eventually, Dad realized David was an amazing musician. And David realized Dad was an amazing musician.

You could see them both collectively relax, and then the magic, it was just made. After only an hour's worth of rehearsal time, Bowie and Crosby nailed their performance. A few days after the taping, Crosby said of Bowie, he sings well, has a great voice, and reads lines well, too. Peace on Earth, Little Drummer Boy would turn out to be one of the last songs Crosby ever recorded, and the last Christmas special he would ever make. Just a month later, he died of a heart attack after playing a round of golf. And a month after that, Bing Crosby's Merry Old Christmas aired on CBS.

His widow, Catherine, did an introduction as a nation wept. But the story doesn't end there. Peace on Earth, Little Drummer Boy arrived as a single five years later in November of 1982. Curiously backed by Fantastic Voyage from Bowie's 1979 album, Lodger, the single became a massive UK chart-topper, landing at number three in early 1983. It was one of the best-selling singles of Bowie's entire career. Against all odds, Peace on Earth, Little Drummer Boy became a Christmas classic. We have a few very talented song doctors to thank for it, along with Bowie's mom and Crosby's kids. And, of course, Crosby and Bowie, too. Their collaboration proved the adage that nothing has the power to bring people together more than music.

It was true then, and it's still true now. The story behind Bowie and Bing's unlikely Hollywood duet, here on Our American Stories. With Luckyland Sluts, you can get lucky just about anywhere. This is your captain speaking. We've got clear runway and the weather's fine, but we're just going to circle up here a while and get lucky.

No, no, nothing like that. It's just these cash prizes add up quick, so I suggest you sit back, keep your tray table upright, and start getting lucky. Play for free at

Are you feeling lucky? No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law. 18-plus terms and conditions apply. See website for details.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-27 04:41:30 / 2023-06-27 04:45:26 / 4

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime