As I grew up, there was a ritual every year in my family that sometimes I liked, and some times I absolutely despised. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, as I was a lad, it seems that everyone and his brother filmed a Christmas special which preempted regular programing, and it almost always seemed that the showing being preempted were the ones I loved watching the most.
Among those specials every year was a Bing Crosby special, which always ended with him singing his signature song, “White Christmas.” In 1977, Crosby had a very unique and special guest on the show, David Bowie. Bowie was, at the time, seeking to “normalize” his career and get away from the extreme character he was seen as by people at the time. Bowie reportedly said that he only appeared on the show because he knew his mother liked Crosby.
According to reports, Bowie and Crosby were scheduled to sing “Little Drummer Boy,” but Bowie objected as he personally did not like that song, and asked if there was something else he could sing. The show’s scriptwriter, Buz Kohan, and songwriters Larry Grossman and Ian Fraser wrote the tune, “Peace on Earth,” as a companion piece. Crosby and Bowie filmed their scene and recorded the song with only one hour of rehearsal.
They recorded the duet on September 11, 1977. Five weeks later, Bing Crosby died, with that performance and one final performance of “White Christmas” being two of his last on this earth. The song became very popular very quickly. A bootleg record was released of it which sold well, until it was replaced by an official recording later on. That video from the special was run on music video shows every year during the holidays. It has since become a staple of the Christmas music of the season.
Personally, I loved it for not only the two gentlemen who performed it, one beginning a new phase of his career, and one whose career was at its end, but for the simple beauty of the song and its message. We present this video, with our best Christmas wishes for each and every one of you.