David Bowie & Bing Crosby Sing “The Little Drummer Boy” (1977)

We like to bring this chestnut back from time to time. Watch it, and you’ll know why.

In 1977, just a short month before Bing Crosby died of a heart attack, the 40s crooner hosted David Bowie, the glam rocker, on his Christmas show. The awkwardness of the meeting is palpable. An older, crusty Crosby had no real familiarity with the younger, androgynous Bowie, and Bowie wasn’t crazy about singing The Little Drummer Boy.

So, shortly before the show’s taping, a team of writers had to frantically retool the song, blending the traditional Christmas song with a newly-written tune called Peace on Earth. (You can watch the writers tell the story, years later, below.) After one hour of rehearsal, the two singers recorded The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth and made a little classic. The Washington Post has the backstory on the strange Bing-Bowie meeting. Also find a Will Ferrell parody of the meeting here. We hope you enjoy revisiting this clip with us. Happy holidays to you all.

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Comments (15)
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  • JohnE says:

    Enjoy this version of song… not my favorite that is Bob Seger’s version but this is right up there at the top.

    The behind the scenes by the Washington post is a nice read too.

    Merry Christmas.

  • Jim says:

    Crosby died on the golf course in Scotland doing his second favorite pastime. His first was entertaining.

  • Ed McKeown says:

    This is my favorite Christmas song of all time. I knew the song was recorded after an hour of rehearsal although until I saw the second clip did know the Peace on Earth was remade in the same time frame. That is truly amazing! These were two of the greatest performers of their eras and I absolutely love it.

  • thomas tisdale says:

    can this sng be bought on a cd??? my wife loves this song

  • Dave Turner says:

    I wonder who these two would be equivilant to today in 2015?

  • mary bruce sondergaard says:

    I have listened to this so many times and I simply love it, what a voice they both had and how well old and young combined. Peace on earth is a theme we can repeat now as well as then, this is my favorite christmas carol.

  • Maureen Smith says:

    I had no idea about the back story, this duet is amazing.I watch it all the time. Bing Crosby really let David Bowie shine as he sings Drummer Boy beneath his powerful message of peace on earth. Every time I hear it, I pray that this dream will fill our hearts thru out the world. Pray for peace and Merry Christmas everybody!

  • G Blondheim says:

    To Mr. Bowie,

    Growing up I went to David Bowie concerts. I dated a guy for a long time that was a Bowie fan and then I married another man that was totally into Bowie Bowie Bowie.
    I have played this particular recording every year since it was made because I simply love it, it shows a combination of two beautiful voices (David Bowie’s voice is simply wonderful especially combining it with Bing Crosby).
    This year I bumped into this background story to the song. Thank you to Mr. Bowie’s Mother for getting her son to do the show and thank you especially to the person or people who in a hour’s time were able to change the song around that pleased Mr. Bowie enough to follow through and sing it.
    It is a classic and I would love to own it on CD as well as so many other people I know.
    Mr. Bowie and Mr. Crosby you have brought this Mother great joy for having performed this song, it simply brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.

    A David Bowie Fan

  • Jeffrey says:


  • Caroline Seckel says:

    I think today’s equivalent is Tony Bennett and Lady GaGa.

  • Robin says:

    This classic song warms my heart through and through

  • Mark says:

    I’ve loved this song and arrangement since I first heard it decades ago. I was thrilled when my son created a piano jazz arrangement for this. He must have been listening as a child! lol


  • Billie Britton says:

    What an amazing story, always loved this song…

  • Dale Murphy says:

    Thanks to the people who redid the song and to those 2 great iconic entertainers for being the true professionals and bringing the song to life. Truly a classic that has and will span the decades. I hear it and tear up not only because it is a great message, but done by those men who are no longer here with us. We all are still blessed by what they did for humanity and the beautiful music that we still get to experience. My glass is up to you gentlemen and to say Thanks.

  • Dave says:

    I was 10 when this song came out. It has been a fixture around the holidays for me for over 40 years.

    Every time I hear it for the first time of the season, it takes me back to my youth, with Christmas at my grandparents house, large family meals and great fun. Amazing, idyllic memories.

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