Bing Crosby’s estate and Primary Wave Music recently released Bing Crosby’s Christmas Gems, a compilation of the singer’s most-loved holiday hits. The 14-track album includes songs such as Marshmallow World, Christmas Island, and Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy—a duet featuring David Bowie that “almost didn’t happen.”
In 1977, shortly before Crosby’s death, the two crooners filmed a TV special that introduced their duet. According to The Washington Post, when Bowie showed up for production, he refused to sing the song.
“I hate this song,” he was quoted saying. “Is there something else I could sing?”
In a panic, the producers called on a team of composers to give the lyrics an overhaul. With only hours to get it together, they added new lyrics and another melody. Fortunately, David Bowie was impressed. Because of that and the fact that his mother was a huge fan of Crosby, he agreed to continue with the show.
Harry, Crosby’s son, shared with Fox News Digital that Crosby also helped get the Labyrinth star back on board.
“He had great respect for Bowie,” he said. “I can’t say he was deeply involved with David Bowie’s music any more than the Rolling Stones or Grateful Dead, but it was a time when there was a dramatic change in the music world. And David Bowie was very much an instrument of that change. I loved his music and I think dad respected his music and where he came from. The two, who had never met, got together around this piano and did Little Drummer Boy in one take. It was smooth as silk.”
Bing Crosby’s Producers Took Issue With David Bowie’s Attire
The song of choice wasn’t the only issue that day, though.
Billboard reported that David Bowie showed up that day with his then-wife, Angie. The couple donned matching electric red hair and “full-length coats.” They also each wore a full face of makeup.
Bing Crosby’s daughter Mary told the publication that her family was shocked by David Bowie’s chosen appearance that day because it didn’t seem to match the theme. However, as soon as the duo began working, everything came together.
“They sat at the piano and David was a little nervous,” she said. “Dad realized David was this amazing musician, and David realized dad was an amazing musician. You could see them both collectively relax and then magic was made.”
However, the producers weren’t as relaxed by Bing and Bowie’s chemistry. They nearly shut the whole thing down because of Bowie’s over the top look.
“It almost didn’t happen,” said Crosby’s other son Nathaniel. “I think the producers told him to take the lipstick off and take the earring out.”
After all the stress, the show went on and brought a new Christmas favorite to the world.
“I was there on the set, and it was just seamless,” remembered Harry. “They had great respect for one another and there’s no doubt that their respect for each other only grew after that recording. They came together in such an organic and natural way to produce a timeless piece.”
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