Today in 1977 David Bowie & Bing Crosby Sang Christmas Songs

It was the most unlikely of pairings, and yet it turned into one of the best duets and Christmas duos of all time.

On this day in 1977, the crooner opened the door on his last televised Christmas special, Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas, and welcomed David Bowie inside.

Together the pair sang the holiday chestnuts "Peace on Earth" and "Little Drummer Boy" together and melted hearts everywhere.

Crosby, the 74-year-old star of stage and screen dressed like a doting grandpa in a baby blue cardigan covering a casual dress shirt paired nicely with Bowie who wore a blue sportcoat and a dress shirt of his own.

The Brit looked nothing like Ziggy Stardust or a rock star of any sort. Bowie, who could crossdress with the best of them, was decidedly tame. Even his hair looked curiously average.

Years later actors Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly would spoof the wholesome classic to a tee.

But the four-and-a-half minute TV moment between Bowie and Bing was bittersweet.

Taped on September 11, 1977, the pair needed only an hour of rehearsal and a trio of takes to get it in the can. A few days later Crosby called Bowie "a clean-cut kid" and an asset to the show.

A month later, after playing a successful round of golf in Spain, he told his golf partner and opponents, "that was a great game of golf, fellas. Let's go have a Coca-Cola." Crosby then had a massive heart attack and died.

Bowie was already having a tough back-half of 1977.

Just days after recording the Christmas bit with Crosby, his dear friend Marc Bolan of T-Rex died.

Bowie was already in a dark place because earlier that year his record label, RCA, was hesitant to put out his newest album Low because they didn't believe in it and dragged their feet for three months.

In October Bowie released Heroes which regained the confidence with RCA and when the Bing Crosby Christmas Special finally aired in November, it was an instant hit with audiences, despite being so odd.

"I believe that working with Bing led to Bono working with Sinatra," Bowie told Q in 1999, "I set a precedent there... I think the thing with Bing is the most ludicrousā€¦ it's wonderful to watch. We were so totally out of touch with each other."

Regardless of the awkwardness, RCA released the duets in 1982, just in time for Christmas, but because the original master of the audio had been erased by those who thought once the TV show aired, there wasn't a reason to keep all the tapes, the single was cut using the broadcast audio.

No matter, the tune became one of Bing's final hits, one of Bowie's best selling singles, and a regular selection in Christmas mix tapes for decades to come.

And yet, Bowie would never sing those songs live in concert.

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Last updated: 25 Feb 2024, 14:05 Etc/UTC