When the producers of Bing Crosby’s “Merrie Olde Christmas” TV special asked Bowie to sing “The Little Drummer Boy” with Bing in 1977, he flatly refused.
Ian Fraser, Buz Kohan and Larry Grossman left the set and found a piano in the studios’ basement. In about 75 minutes, they wrote “Peace on Earth,” an original tune, and worked out an arrangement that weaved together the two songs. Bowie and Crosby nailed the performance with less than an hour of rehearsal. Bowie liked it.
Bowie, who was 30 at the time, and Crosby, then 73, recorded the duet Sept. 11, 1977, for Crosby’s “Merrie Olde Christmas” TV special. A month later, Crosby was dead of a heart attack. The special was broadcast on CBS about a month after his death.
It’s unclear whether Crosby had any idea who the Hell this Bowie kid was. Buz Kohan says he was never sure Crosby knew anything about Bowie’s work. Fraser has a slightly different memory: “I’m pretty sure he did. Bing was no idiot. If he didn’t, his kids sure did.”
David Bowie originally agreed to the duet with Crosby on his Christmas special only if Bing would also air a Bowie solo performance. When you think about how this must’ve stuck out like a sore thumb on Bing’s special, it’s pretty amusing. It was also pretty ballsy of Bing, given his audience– it’s a pretty trippy piece. Heroes. Classic Christmas memory.
Read more on Bing Crosby- the first hip white guy born in the US.