Bowie and Bing: Lessons and Carols


The story behind this strange and lovely duet:

At the time, it was about the most unlikely pairing imaginable: gender-bending glam rocker David Bowie and stodgy crooner Bing Crosby. And yet, when the two got together to sing a duet on the 1977 TV special Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas, they made holiday magic.

“Bowie balked at singing the traditional Christmas carol ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ on the special. Grossman recalls, ‘He said, “I won’t sing that song. I hate that song… I’m doing this show because my mother loves Bing Crosby.”‘”

Scrambling to find a solution, Grossman and Kohan hit upon the idea of introducing a counter melody to “Drummer Boy” that Bowie could sing while Crosby sang the traditional arrangement. “It all happened rather rapidly. I would say within an hour, we had it written and were able to present it him again,” Kohan remembers.

The result: “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy,” a tune that pleased both Bowie and Crosby and went on to become a holiday-music standard right alongside the original “Little Drummer Boy.”

This tale offers several lessons, beyond reminding me how much I love David Bowie. The video reveals how generous Bing Crosby is during the performance, letting Bowie’s vocal shine.

From a writer’s perspective, it reminds us:

  • When you run into a problem, collaborate to find a solution that respects all the artists and builds on their strengths.
  • Deadlines can spur creativity to wonderful levels. Bowie’s melody was written in an hour.
  • Challenges can result in magic.

Peace on Earth. Happy Holidays, everyone.

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