Is the renowned David Bowie-Bing Crosby performance of “The Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth” a dazzling and unforgettable performance or a completely bizarre and insufferable episode in TV and music history that should be entirely forgotten? The following passage is from a 2006 Washington Post article on how this duet happened:
One of the most successful duets in Christmas music history — and surely the weirdest — might never have happened if it weren’t for some last-minute musical surgery. David Bowie thought “The Little Drummer Boy” was all wrong for him. So when the producers of Bing Crosby’s Christmas TV special asked Bowie to sing it in 1977, he refused.
Just hours before he was supposed to go before the cameras, though, a team of composers and writers frantically retooled the song. They added another melody and new lyrics as a counterpoint to all those pah-rumpa-pum-pums and called it “Peace on Earth.” Bowie liked it. More important, Bowie sang it.
The result was an epic, and epically bizarre, recording in which David Bowie, the androgynous Ziggy Stardust, joined in song with none other than Mr. “White Christmas” himself, Bing Crosby.
Remember that the TV special did not air until after Bing Crosby died, which was about a month after taping his Christmas special in England and the duet with David Bowie. I remember very vividly watching that Christmas show. I always watched the Christmas specials of Crosby, Andy Williams, Dean Martin, and all of the others of that generation. My mother kept talking about how weird Bowie was, and she kept asking me if he was a homosexual. I was only 14 – so I had no opinion on such matters. At that time I was already a huge Crosby fan, and I had been since childhood. I think the song is touching and unique, and Bing’s baritone is well-set against Bowie’s tenor of his younger years.