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Sunday, December 10, 2017

#16 - Top 25 Christmas Songs (According To Me!)

In some occasions, you might have a couple of objects or people that you don't think could ever possibly go together in any way.  And once you do combine them, they end up creating something beautiful.

Let's face it.  There was once a world that existed in which peanut butter and chocolate were separate entities.  Hard to believe, I know.  But someone decided to combine the two of them together to create the incredibly delicious Reese Peanut Butter Cup, and it remains a popular candy to this day.

Or, how about oranges and chocolate?  The mere thought of dunking an orange in melted chocolate disgusts me...but making orange flavoured chocolate?  That was a brilliant way to create a unique taste for the Christmas season. 

(Well, everyone except me.  I loathe orange flavoured chocolate.  If I'm to have one of those Terry's Chocolate Oranges, I get the mint version.)

And of course, the music industry is filled with uncanny duets that seem like a trainwreck on paper, but was music to everyone's ears.  I mean, did you expect the Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga collaboration to be as good as it was?  Even I found it to be a pleasant surprise!

I suppose that is the main theme of Day #10 of the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR.  You see, Song #16 features two very different musical artists coming together to sing a Christmas classic, and at first glance, you would automatically assume that it would have been a major trainwreck.  Or at the very least, a sketch idea on "Saturday Night Live".

Yet the collaboration between Bing Crosby and David Bowie on the 1977 track "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" was Christmas magic with an unusual, but brilliant twist.

First off, the song medley that both men sang was in itself a rather interesting blend of old and new.  I'm sure everyone has heard of at least one version of the song "The Little Drummer Boy".  It has been a part of the holiday playlists of radio stations since its release seventy-six years ago.  But at the time of the recording of the song, the "Peace on Earth" part was a brand new song composed by Ian Fraser, Larry Grossman, and Alan Kohen.  It was risky to take new words and add them to a classic song, but it flowed beautifully.  Well, at least in my humble opinion, anyway.

The song itself was meant to be a part of Bing Crosby's holiday special "Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas".  It was taped at Elstree Studios (the same location where EastEnders is filmed) on September 11, 1977.  And the idea of having David Bowie singing a song with Mr. White Christmas himself was a bit of a gamble.

At this point in time, David Bowie was just winding down his Ziggy Stardust era and was looking for a way to normalize his career goals in order to appeal to a larger fanbase.  And certainly, Bowie was a bit hesitant to perform with Bing, but said that it was a surreal experience, and later admitted that he only signed on to do the special because his mother was a fan of Bing.

As for Bing's point of view?  After working with him, Crosby couldn't praise him enough on his professionalism and called him a real asset to the show.  So, it appeared as though the collaboration was a success right from the start.

Sadly, Bing didn't live long enough to see the clip in action.  Five weeks after taping the special, on October 14, 1977, Bing Crosby died of a heart attack while golfing in Spain at the age of 74.  The special didn't air until November 30, 1977 where it was a ratings hit - likely sparked by the fact that this was the last project that Crosby would ever work on.

And five years later, in 1982, "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" was released as a single by RCA - though it was a decision that would cause Bowie to leave the company not long after. 

To this day, the collaboration between Bing and David remains a huge success, and the song still continues to chart in several countries around the holiday season forty years later.  In fact, it peaked at #2 on the Canadian charts as recently as 1998!

As we listen to David and Bing singing what would be Bing's swan song, I will let you know that this is not the last you will hear from at least one of these artists.  But that's not for a while.  Instead, tune in tomorrow where we will hear the tale of someone with a corn-cob pipe and a button nose.

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