Media Spotlight: Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth (David Bowie & Bing Crosby)

Little Drummer Boy David Bowie Bing Crosby

1. Why did I choose to cover this recording? 

It’s now officially Christmastime, for starters. For another, this now classic version of the song is celebrating its forty-fifth anniversary this year. 

My mom told me at the time the Crosby special originally aired, this collaboration was received with a great deal of confusion. It shouldn’t have worked, yet it did. Somehow, this arrangement is both haunting and comforting at the same time. 

2. How old was I when I heard it for the first time? (Child, Pre-Teen, Teen, Adult) 

I was born the year the Bing Crosby special featuring this duet originally aired. Crosby passed away soon after the recording of this special. This song has been a radio staple since my early childhood. Crosby’s voice was similar to my maternal grandfather’s, so anytime I hear Crosby, I think of my grandfather more than I do the actor/singer. 

Bowie gets frequent airplay on the classic rock stations. I’ve heard several of his collaborations with other artists such as Mick Jagger on the cover of Martha and the Vandella’s “Dancing in the Street”. My preference, however is for “Under Pressure” with Queen. 

Some compilations list Bowie first and others list Crosby. New Wave XMas has Bowie billed first, but that’s to be expected on a New Wave compilation. The Time-Life Treasury of Christmas lists Bowie first while Now That’s What I Call Christmas flips it around and lists Crosby first. I have all three of these compilations. Also, both 2-Disc compilations end their first disc with Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth. 

On New Wave Xmas, the Bowie/Crosby duet is Track nine of seventeen, nestled between X-Mas at Kmart by Root Boy Slim & The Sex Change Band With the Rootettes and One Christmas Catalogue by Captain Sensible. 

3. What format (or formats) do I recall listening to this song through? Vinyl record/cassette/Compact Disc or on the radio? 

Mostly, I heard this version on the radio until I bought the first of the three aforementioned compilations. I probably bought New Wave Xmas for this song and the other two compilations for other songs. 

4. Did I own the recording in any format or did I just listen to it on the radio? Did someone else own it and I listened to the recording while I was with them? 

I owned (and still own) three compilations with this recording on it: New Wave Xmas, Now That’s What I Call Christmas, and Time-Life Treasury of Christmas. 

5. When was the recording released? 

Bowie released the original recording in 1977, but the copyright dates on the compilations range from 1996 (for New Wave XMas) to 2001 for Now That’s What I Call Christmas and 2002 for my edition of Time-Life Treasury of Christmas. 

I remember seeing the Time-Life Treasury advertised on Nickelodeon throughout the year (heaviest from October to December and even a couple of weeks into January) but I don’t remember when or where I bought it. Most likely, I bought it at MediaPlay, where I also purchased Now That’s What I Call Christmas. I think I got New Wave Christmas at KMart. I think I bought it for Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth and/or The Pretenders’ 2000 Miles. 

6. If I did own it, did I purchase it myself or receive it as a gift? 

I purchased all three of these myself for myself. I never understood giving holiday related media as gifts because the recipient would have to wait to enjoy it until the next year when the holiday season came around again to enjoy it. 

7. Is this my favorite song/album by this band or artist? 

It’s definitely my favorite Bowie song, possibly tied with “Modern Love”. However when it comes to Crosby, it’s his version of “White Christmas” from the movie of the same title. Because my parish was mostly made up of transplants from the Midwest and Northeast, our pastor would indulge us by leading us in “White Christmas” the last Sunday of Advent. 

I hope you enjoyed this look at this classic song. Another one (also fitting our current Christmas theme) will be coming up soon. It might even be one of the songs mentioned above.

About Karen Flieger 75 Articles
I was born in the late 1970’s, spent my childhood in the 1980’s, and my pre-teen and teen years in the 1990’s. I graduated from Kennesaw State University in 2001 with a B.A. in English. I collect various forms of media (books, music, movies, and television shows) as well as plush toys, dolls, and Funko figures.

1 Comment

  1. This is one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs. Like you said, it shouldn’t have necessarily worked, but it does so beautifully. I have a copy of this 45 record originally released in 1982 – 5 years after it was recorded – and actually just posted a picture of it on Instagram this week!

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