Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Favorite Contemporary Christmas Song

A recent XKCD strip suggested our notion of "classic Christmas songs" has been cast in stone by the "baby boomer" generation.  Well, this led to a nice, long discussion during a recent family trip--we are a very musical family--about what modern/contemporary Christmas songs would be considered "classics" 20 years from now.  Since XKCD's data ended with the early 1970s, we defined "modern" as "released in 1970 or later."  As we debated various songs, artists, and groups, I suddenly realized that we already had at least one winner.

Bing Crosby and David Bowie joined forces (and isn't THAT a strange sentence to write) to perform "Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth" for Crosby's 1977 TV Christmas special.  It's a great duet, but the truly amazing figures in the story were behind the scenes; as it happens, Bowie flatly refused to sing "Little Drummer Boy" as written; he felt that he would completely alienate his fans with such a straightforward, traditional rendition.  So, the arrangers/composers, Ian Fraser and Larry Grossman, found a room on the set and--IN 75 MINUTES--wrote a countermelody ("Peace on Earth") and wrote the fusion arrangement on the fly.  The result was originally considered somewhat bizarre, but has become a Christmas staple for many music lovers (including me).  It's sadly appropriate that the original sheet music was, apparently, left unpreserved, making this a true "one-hit wonder" for the ages.  Enjoy.

YouTube: Crosby/Bowie - The Little Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth

Washington Post: Bing and Bowie: An Odd Story of Holiday Harmony

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