PEACE ON EARTH | BING & BOWIE’S EPIC AND TIMELESS HOLIDAY CLASSIC DUET

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“Peace on Earth” has long been one of my all-time favorite Holiday tunes. Even more so when I learned about the odd and magical pairing of David Bowie & Bing Crosby many years ago. It was an epic moment in music history that almost didn’t happen– in more ways than one.

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Bing Crosby & David Bowie taping the TV special “Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas” back in 1977.

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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.”

via The Washington Post

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September 11th, 1977– Iconic crooners Bing Crosby & David Bowie shake hands during the taping of the television special “Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas”.

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David Bowie agreed to the duet with Crosby on his Christmas special only if Bing would also air a Bowie solo performance. Bing introduced and showed Bowie’s progressive video for “Heroes”– and 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 in this context.

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10 thoughts on “PEACE ON EARTH | BING & BOWIE’S EPIC AND TIMELESS HOLIDAY CLASSIC DUET

  1. You might not know this, but Mike Mahoney’s Shamrock Social Club tattoo studio, at 9015 Sunset Blvd. just down the block and on the other side of Sunset from The Rainbow and the Roxy, occupies Bing Crosby’s old “Buisness Office”. Mahoney’s personal tattoo station on the elevated portion in the back of the interior was the area that Der Bingle used as his “office” area.

    Actually, Crosby used that office as an afterhours gathering place for a lot of the Black jazz musicians who couldn’t play in a lot of the clubs in W. Hollywood at the time. Crosby was a big jazz fan, and his “office” was really a “private” jazz jam club and party central in disguise, complete with the booze and the ladies and the “who’s who” hip Hollywood movers and shakers of the time.

  2. That video was great!
    Old world meets new world at the time.

    Christmas past meets Christmas Future!

    Wow does that bring back some really great memories!

    Thanks and Merry Christmas!!!

  3. Bowie has always been a big fan of the old school, and Anthony Newley in particular—copped his deep vibrato directly from the man. The joke about Lennon and Nilsson is more about Bowie pretending not to know than anything else. Yep, Der Bingle was a jazz drummer too.

  4. Enjoying your blog, plan to use it when I teach my SMU January class “Fashion, History & Culture.” I did discover your blog via the Dallas Morning News–reveals my age! CS

  5. Bing’s last Christmas Special… I remember that among all those seasonal broadcasts, his was the least hokey in production. Such a beautiful, understated performance… could such elegance even be presented in a television special today?

  6. There’s something timeless in the Christmas Specials of the 60s and 70s. My oldest daughter, now 31, has a DVD collection of them and this one with Bowie is among her favorites along with shows by Dean Martin, Nat King Cole and Perry Como.

    I feel old.

  7. Back in 1996, Craig Kilborn (during his run as host of “The Daily Show”) and Hüsker Dü’s Bob Mould performed an entertaining parody of the Bowie-Crosby favorite. Well worth a look:

  8. I watched this when it was first aired. I was seven, and I remember squirming during the “Heroes” performance because my dad, a huge Bing fan, was not a fan of Rock and/or Roll at all. I remember wanting Bowie to stop making out with himself so my pop wouldn’t change the channel. He did enjoy the duet, however grudgingly. I have not seen that version of “Heroes” since then. Thanks.

  9. The Bing-Bowie song is on a lot of ‘worst of’ Christmas song lists, but I think its the fucking best. Absolutely radical of Bing to invite ‘Heroes’-era, Berlin-living, Eno-produced, former glamster, questionable sexuality DB to sing with him on his CHRISTMAS special, it gave me huge respect for Bing then, and blew my mind when I saw it as a kid – I just couldn’t make heads or tails of it, total cognitive dissonance. Fantastic.

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