What began as an unusual pairing of two very different singing stars, became an enduring Christmas classic. In 1977, Bing Crosby recorded a television special called Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas. One of the show’s musical numbers featured Crosby singing with rock superstar David Bowie.
Originally, Bing Crosby and David Bowie were told they would be singing “The Little Drummer Boy.” However, Bowie felt that his voice did not adapt well to it. Within an hour, the show’s songwriters Buz Kohan, Larry Grossman and Ian Fraser came up with the lyrics to “Peace on Earth.”
The two singers met for the first time on the morning of September 11, 1977 at Elstree Studios near London. They rehearsed for an hour and recorded the song in just three takes. Afterward, Bing was very complimentary of Bowie’s professionalism.
The Christmas special was Bing Crosby’s final television show. He passed away just five weeks after the taping. The special aired in the U.S. on November 30, 1977, and in the U.K. on December 24, 1977. It was introduced by his widow, Kathryn (above).
It wasn’t until five years later that “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” was released as a single by David Bowie. The song proved to be one of his fastest selling records, peaking at #3 on the British and Irish charts in 1982-83.