Bing Crosby & David Bowie’s Iconic Duet of ‘Little Drummer Boy’ Almost Never Came to Be
One of the most beloved and recognizable Christmas songs is Bing Crosby and David Bowie’s version of “Little Drummer Boy.” Crosby loved to record Christmas tunes and this year, his estate compiled the best ones for a 14-track album called Bing Crosby’s Christmas Gems to commemorate almost 50 years since Crosby passed away in 1977.
Shortly before his death, Crosby recorded “Little Drummer Boy” with David Bowie for a Christmas special but the duet almost never happened. At first, Bowie refused to sing the song because he apparently hated it! The team frantically reworked the song with new melodies and lyrics just hours before they were supposed to perform it. Bowie ended up liking the new version and agreed to sing the song because he was a big fan of Crosby.
Crosby’s son Harry revealed, “He had great respect for Bowie. 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.”
Harry added, “I was there on the set, and it was just seamless. 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.” Unfortunately, it would be one of the last times that he saw his father perform and now the holidays are a way to honor his dad and share memories with the family.
He concluded, “I lost him when I was 19. I miss him a ton. One feeling I have is regret that he didn’t see us have children and so on. But I learned so much from him in the 19 years that I had him. I’m still learning from him.”