Holiday music mash-ups have long brought out out the best and the worst in the entertainment industry. Over at Open Culture, they’ve dug up one of the stranger duets in musical history: David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing “the Little Drummer Boy”.
The song was recorded in September of 1977 for a for Bing Crosby’s Christmas special called Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas. It was filmed in England, right down the street from Bowie’s home. Bowie objected to singing “The Little Drummer Boy’, so the writers came up with the new tune “Peace on Earth” for Bowie to sing in counterpoint to Bing’s Little Drummer.
The result is hardly an example of holiday harmony. The conversation is stilted and the jokes fall flat. But the song has staying power and went on to be one of the most successful holiday duet recordings ever; it regularly reappears as radio play around the holidays. Comedians as varied as Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Craig Kilborn and Steve Colbert have all parodied this dubious pairing.
Bing didn’t live to see it aired; he died a month later.