When the world tune in to watch the new TV show, Merry Christmas from Bing Crosby, during the Christmas season of 1977, they had no idea they were about to witness the strangest collaboration in musical history. A collaboration between Bing Crosby, a veteran Hollywood star, King of Crooners, known for “White Christmas”, and David Bowie, the king of glam rock, known for his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust and songs like “Queen B * ** *. ”
They couldn’t have chosen two different people in showbiz if they had tried. Not to mention that there was a generational gap between a 30-year-old Bowie and the frail 73-year-old Crosby.
The hosts sang a duet of “Peace on Earth / Little Drummer Boy” for the Crosby TV special, including a cheesy skit. Later it was released as a single and became a Christmas classic.
However, the collaboration hardly happened, mainly because Bowie had little incentive to do so.
Bing Crosby’s kids say their father’s collaboration with David Bowie hardly happened
On September 11, 1977, Bing Crosby’s teenage children Harry, Mary and Nathaniel Crosby were on set when their father and David Bowie recorded their duet “Peace on Earth / Little Drummer Boy” for the Crosby special.
Mary saw Bowie arrive. “The doors opened and David walked in with his wife,” she said (per Billboard). “They both wore long mink coats, they had matching full makeup, and their hair was bright red. We thought, ‘Oh my god.’ “
Nathaniel added: “It hardly happened. I think the producers told him to take the lipstick off and take the earring off. It was just amazing to see the contrast.
Initially, they witnessed the clumsiness between the singers. However, when they started to rehearse, a transformation occurred. Bowie and Crosby realized they weren’t that different after all.
“They sat down at the piano and David was a little nervous,” Mary continued. “Daddy realized David was this amazing musician, and David realized Daddy was an amazing musician. You could see them both relax together, and then the magic happened.
However, the collaboration almost did not happen as Bowie could find no reason to do so other than his mother and the promotion of her new album.
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Bowie did the TV special for his mother, who was a huge Crosby fan, and to promote “Heroes”
The TV special hardly happened, not just because the producers told Bowie to take off his lipstick and earring. The “Life On Mars” singer refused to sing “Little Drummer Boy”.
In 2014, the authors of Merry Christmas from Bing Crosby Larry Grossman and Buz Kohan told PBS (via Classics of the Day) that the initial plan was to have the two singers as a duet on “Little Drummer Boy”. However, Bowie categorically refused. He said, ‘I won’t sing this song. I hate this song… I’m doing this show because my mom loves Bing Crosby. ‘”
Grossman, Kohan and Ian Fraser then wrote a song, “Peace on Earth”, for Bowie to sing while Crosby sang “Little Drummer Boy”. It only took 75 minutes for the writers to write. Then they took it to the singers, and they got it sorted out in less than an hour.
Besides his mother, Bowie decided to do the TV special to promote his new album, Hero, and run the titular track.
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Crosby thought Bowie was “clean” while Bowie called the collaboration “the most bizarre experience”
Bowie said Q magazine in 1999 that he thought his collaboration with Crosby was his “most bizarre experience.”
“We were totally disconnected from each other,” Bowie explained (according to Bowie Bible). The “Moonage Daydream” went on to explain what they were thinking when they made the TV special. Apparently, it’s obvious that Crosby was not doing well.
“I was wondering if he was still alive,” Bowie said. “He was just… not there. He wasn’t there at all. He had the words in front of him. (Bing deep voice) ‘Hi, Dave, nice to see you here…’ And he looked like a little old orange sitting on a stool. “Because he had been wearing a lot of makeup and his skin was a little itchy, and there was just no one home, you know?”
“It was the strangest experience. I didn’t know anything about him. I just knew my mom liked him. Maybe I would have known (sing) ‘When the mooooon …’ No … (hums) ‘Dada da, da dada, someone is waiting for me …’ It’s about the only song by him that I would have really known.
Meanwhile, Crosby praised Bowie after their collaboration. The crooner said Bowie was a “clean kid and a real asset to the show… He sings well, has a great voice and reads lines well.”
Another strange thing: two deaths occurred around the TV special and Bowie’s appearance on Marc Bolan’s TV show, Marc. Crosby and Bowie filmed the special two days after Bowie appeared on Marc. Bolan died on September 16. Then, Crosby passed away a month later.
“Poor old Bing also got away with it right after I did it with him,” Bowie said. “I was seriously worried about whether I should appear on TV because everyone I was playing with was doing it the following week.”
As odd as the collaboration is (the sketch in which Crosby is Bowie’s long-lost neighbor is particularly gratifying), the duo sound excellent. The singer’s voices work together perfectly, and the performance is unforgettable.