Posts Tagged ‘Bing Crosby’

Bing and Bowie 1977Well, it is Sunday morning and that usually means that it is time for some music here.  Since it is the last Sunday before Christmas a little holiday music is called for.  This is a song that I have played here before.  It’s that odd pairing between Bing Crosby and David Bowie and the song The Little Drummer Boy/ Peace on Earth.

The story behind how it came about is pretty interesting.  In 1977, 73 year old Bing Crosby was in the midst of  what would be his last British tour.  While there , producers put together Crosby’s annual holiday special for American TV, this time with an English theme, a Merrie Olde Christmas.  It was filmed in September with a number of British celebrity guests, including the 30 year old rock star David Bowie.  Bing actually introduced and showed the video to Bowie’s song Heroes on the special.

On the day of shooting, Bowie learns that he is scheduled to sing Little Drummer Boy with Crosby.  He balks, telling producers that he hates the song and if that’s the song they wanted he might as well leave.  He said he was only there because his mother was huge Crosby fan.

Producers and composers went to work.  In just over an hour, they produced an original tune, Peace on Earth, that would be sung by Bowie as a counterpoint to Bing’s Little Drummer Boy.  The two singers both liked the new addition and the arrangement and ran through it together several times in less than an hour before recording the final version.

Bing Crosby died less than a month later and the special ran as scheduled in December of 1977.  The pairing of Bing and Bowie was considered an oddity then and producers of the show and song thought that was the end of it.  But bootlegs of the song circulated for several years, gaining in popularity to the point that RCA decided to release it as single in 1982.  It has become one of the most popular holiday songs in the intervening years.

I know it’s one of my favorites.  Have a great Sunday…


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Peanuts Gang from A Charlie Brown Christmas - Chas SchulzI’ve been taking a few days off here around Thanksgiving, taking it a bit easier in the days that kick off the first days of the Christmas season here.  I can’t say I’m as big a fan of the holidays as when I was child but I still feel that same warm fuzziness when certain songs of the season come on the radio.  Nat King Cole singing The Christmas Song or Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, for example.  One of my all-time favorites are the wondeful compositions from  Vince Guaraldi for  A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Hearing the relaxing tones of Christmas Time Is Here with the children’s chorus is like zen candy to me–it just pushes away all the bad things we,ve come to accept as part of the season and fills the void with a peaceful calm.

I thought I’d share Diana Krall‘s take on this great piece.  It lacks the children’s voices but it is lovely nonetheless and a good way to head back into my work.

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We’re into the Christmas season and the airwaves are filled with Christmas specials.  There are the venerable classics such as A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer alongside newer offerings featuring Shrek and other contemporary animated figures.  Some come and go, shown only for a short time.  Perhaps not timeless enough or just victims to ratings.

The specials you never see today are the variety show Christmas specials from the past featuring stars like Andy Williams, Sonny and Cher, the Osmonds and of course, Bing Crosby.  They were goofy contrivances with lots of fake snow and blazing fireplaces on studio sets with terrible jokes and a lot of forced, saccharine  sentimentality.

But I always liked the Bing Crosby Christmas shows.  They weren’t quite as schlocky as the others and you had Bing’s beautiful voice on several holiday classics throughout.  One classic moment came when a young David Bowie appeared on Bing’s last special in 1977, filmed a month before his death.  The show’s producers wanted him to sing The Little Drummer Boy with Bing but Bowie was not a fan of the song and refused.  With the cameras waiting, a new song, Peace on Earth, was written and woven into the other song.  The finished product was done with less than an hour of rehearsal and remains a perennial holiday favorite on radio playlists everywhere.

It’s a great duet and stands up well.  It’s moments like this that make me miss those old specials…

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