Blog Caroling – Peace on Earth-Little Drummer Boy

Posted Today for footnoteMaven’s annual blog caroling tradition from genealogy bloggers around the world! You can still join in until tomorrow, December 22nd. More details are here at her blog. FM’S TRADITION OF BLOG CAROLING – 2017

In his career, crooner Bing Crosby sang many memorable Christmas songs, including “White Christmas” which he first sang in a Christmas Day radio broadcast in 1941. He collaborated with many incredible singers. But no collaboration was as unexpected and well, yeah…weird, than with androgynous, pop-art singer David Bowie in 1977. Bing and David sang a duet rendition of the “Little Drummer Boy” on Bing’s Christmas CBS special, “Bing Crosby’s A Merrie Olde Christmas” and the world was never the same again.

The results, surprisingly, weren’t really weird at all. They were, in fact, so beautiful that the rendition has become a holiday classic to many. Including me.

The story behind the collaboration is that it almost didn’t happen at all. Rolling Stone Magazine did a story in 2014 in which  “Merrie Olde Christmas” writers, Larry Grossman and Buz Kohan recalled,

“We had decided that we wanted them to do a duet of ‘Little Drummer Boy,’ and when we told Bowie about the number, he said, ‘I won’t sing that song,'” Grossman says. “And we said, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘I hate that song. If I have to sing that song, I can’t do the show.”

The writers eventually convinced Bowie after re-tooling the song by writing “Peace on Earth” as a counter melody. They wrote it in about an hour in a basement of the studio just hours before the recording was to take place. Bowie loved it. Bowie’s mother was a huge Bing Crosby fan which may have pushed it over the edge and convinced him even further.

Bing Crosby wasn’t a big fan of most modern music, according to articles I’ve read about him. Seeing images of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust persona must have baffled Crosby, I’m guessing. But, it was written about that encounter that Crosby was immensely impressed with Bowie’s clear, clean and melodic voice–and his professionalism as a musician. Bowie, for his part, was said to be nervous and honored to work with Crosby, despite his initial reaction to the song. They nailed the song in just a few takes after less than an hour of rehearsal.

What makes this song and video more poignant is that a month after it was recorded, Crosby died of a heart-attack while playing golf. He was 73. The Christmas special aired a month after his death on CBS. 

The video has been widely circulated on YouTube for many years. What on paper seems like a bizarre and surreal pairing, slips away when you watch them together. Bing was 73. Bowie, 30. Two generations…connected by music. It is a beautiful song and a beautiful message for all.

What’s your favorite Christmas Carol?

Peace On Earth – Little Drummer Boy Lyrics

Come they told me
A new born king to see
Our finest gifts we bring

Peace on earth, can it be
Years from now, perhaps we’ll see
See the day of glory
See the day when men of good will
Live in peace, live in peace again

Peace on earth, can it be

Every child must be made aware
Every child must be made to care
Care enough for his fellow man
To give all the love that he can

I pray my wish will come true
For my child and your child too
He’ll see the day of glory
See the day when men of good will
Live in peace, live in peace again

Peace on earth, can it be
Can it be

(c) 2017 Jenny Hawran. All rights reserved.

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