Bing Crosby at Christmas: "Right or wrong, I sing either way."
December 15, 2013 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Bing Crosby is something of the unofficial "classic voice of the Christmas season," but his most popular piece in recent years is the unlikely duet from 1977, the same year he passed away. The Washington Post provides the odd story of holiday harmony, how David Bowie joined Crosby at the piano for their duet, "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy". If you like the classics, here's some Bing over the years: a fan-made abbreviation of Frank Sinatra's Christmas Show from 1957, Bing sings "White Christmas" in 1961, Bing & Kathryn Crosby take you on a trip to "Christmas Island" from his 1971 Crosby family special, and from his final Christmas special, Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas, Bing and Twiggy singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." If you'd like a full period piece, here's an all-star 1958 USO Christmas show (program history and overview). If that's all a bit too sweet for you, let Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, June Carter-Cash, Jessi Colter, John Carter-Cash, and more regale you in the Christmas On The Road TV Special (1984).
posted by filthy light thief (32 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
My favorite is Bing's version of Silver Bells. I'm not sure who the female singer is...her voice is mesmerizing.
posted by double bubble at 3:04 PM on December 15, 2013


Oh bother, I just now found the complete 1977 show while I was looking for this collection of commercials from the program.

YouTube is now suggesting the 1977 Donnie & Marie Osmand Christmas Special. I think I am doomed to Christmas recommendations for a while.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:11 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I believe that's Dinah Washington, double.

Thanks for the post, filthy!
posted by trip and a half at 3:12 PM on December 15, 2013


I believe that's Dinah Washington, double.

Internet says Carol Richards.
posted by zabuni at 3:23 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bill Cosby is something of the unofficial "classic voice of the Christmas season," ...

I was really confused for a second.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:46 PM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


As Gary Giddins noted in his book "A Pocket Full of Dreams," Crosby had an amazing career:

* More studio recordings than anyone in history (400 more than Sinatra).

* "White Christmas" made the pop charts every year but one between 1942 and 1961.

* Crosby had 396 charted records. Sinatra had only 209, Elvis only 149, the Beatles only 68.

* Crosby had 38 number one hits. The Beatles had 24 and Elvis had 18.

* He financed and popularized the development of tape recording, revolutionizing the record industry.

And in his younger days he knew how to get hot, as in "When the Folks High Up Do the Mean Low Down"
posted by Longtime Listener at 3:52 PM on December 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


As much as I appreciate a nice "pop" or "rock" singing voice, Crosby's is the one I would give a lot to be able to mimic.

In addition to the beautiful singing, as a kid "White Christmas" always appealed due to it not being a religious song. I was born an atheist, I guess, and even as a kid the vast majority of Christmas music just left me cold.
posted by maxwelton at 4:05 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The main article fails to explain Bowie's "agents sliding down the chimney" quip. Non sequitur, or accurate account of a Bowie family Christmas?
posted by Iridic at 4:10 PM on December 15, 2013


That 1977 show is a real trip. I watched it last week. I always loved the "oh hey, someone's at the door!" plot device in these shows.

I just happen to have a Chromecast and a day off tomorrow to bake cookies. I know how I'll be passing the time!
posted by kimberussell at 4:17 PM on December 15, 2013


The main article fails to explain Bowie's "agents sliding down the chimney" quip.

I always thought it was cuz Jean Genie loves chimney stacks.
posted by mondo dentro at 4:18 PM on December 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


how David Bowie joined Crosby at the piano for their duet, "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy"

The definitive version was actually by The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend / Dr. Mrs. The Monarch, which helps explain the agents bit.

Also they did the best version of Fairytale of New York.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:24 PM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


My favorite Bing Crosby duet is him and Louis Armstrong, in Gone Fishin'.
posted by Flunkie at 4:41 PM on December 15, 2013


From Dave Foley's 'True Meaning of Christmas Specials' Christmas Special, Dave Foley as Bowie, Joe Flaherty as Der Bingle, and Dave Thomas doing his Bob Hope.
posted by Capt. Renault at 4:54 PM on December 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


So I was driving through the remains of the snowstorm today, and had the car radio on Scan, and it seemed like half the damn channels were Christmas music, and I was getting thoroughly sick of it and people were driving like morons and idiots, and this was about about seventeen hours into my twenty-hour round trip, and then I happened to catch "Sir Percival lets me use his piano..."

BAM. Stop scanning, and all the other bullshit just. Melted. Away.

Goddamn, but those two were gold.
posted by Etrigan at 5:55 PM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Best Bing Crosby duet? Surely this one.
posted by the sobsister at 6:24 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Etrigan: Goddamn, but those two were gold.

My favorite part is that the introduction is so awkward that you're expecting the duet to be kind of painful, but the music is so beautiful.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:38 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite part is that the introduction is so awkward that you're expecting the duet to be kind of painful, but the music is so beautiful.

Oh, that's not a patch on those old variety specials. That whole trope of "Why, it's Insert Celebrity Here!" "Hello, Insert Host Here, I was just in the neighborhood..." was an art form that produced a great many attempts at collegiality that were far, far more awkward.
posted by Etrigan at 6:51 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh shoot - now I keep trading Bill Cosby. CURSES.
posted by double bubble at 7:42 PM on December 15, 2013


Bing was a really cool guy. Since I moved to Crosby's hometown of Spokane a few years ago I have gotten to really appreciate him. At the local museum they have a huge Bing Crosby clippings file. My favorite was a 1960s item that described how a team of scientists working for Crosby had developed a wonder drug that would give babies curly hair. It was guaranteed safe, the article assured, because it had been "tested on Mexican Indians."

Crosby also had a newspaper column for a few months or years before his death. One of the last columns was titled "This Porn Thing is Out of Control."
posted by LarryC at 7:58 PM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


a team of scientists working for [Bing] Crosby

This would be the beginning of the greatest manga ever.
posted by Etrigan at 8:01 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


You forgot Christmas Dinner, Country Style!
posted by holyrood at 8:22 PM on December 15, 2013


Wow, it's so neat to see the complete show. That David Bowie video right in the middle is just weird.
posted by Melismata at 8:22 PM on December 15, 2013


Surely that was just a really funny dream, LarryC.
posted by bleep at 8:43 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember reading an interview with Bowie where he claimed that he was so ripped at the time that he has no recollection of recording this duet.
posted by hoodrich at 9:20 PM on December 15, 2013


No, Der Bingle really was interested in science. He financed the development of magnetic recording tape, in some sense he was the original angel investor of Silicon Valley. Surely we have had an FPP about it? He was also an early person to see the promise of television and an investor in Spokane's first TV station. He invested in all kinds of things.
posted by LarryC at 9:40 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bing was a really cool guy.
That duet is new to me (I am too old for rock and roll) and I love it. Bing Crosby had an amazing voice and he always appeared relaxed and unperturbed but some say not so cool. This revelation forever marred my view of him.
posted by Anitanola at 9:43 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


But some say not so cool.

"Quite dispassionately, without the least display of emotion or loss of self-control....."

Maybe Bing wasn't so nice, but he was certainly cool in at least one sense of the word.

The man had a voice. In comparison, Bowie sounds like second fiddle.
posted by three blind mice at 11:42 PM on December 15, 2013


Always nice to reminisce about Bing and Bowie, although the WaPo article irritated me by referring to "the androgynous Ziggy Stardust"; Bowie was several years past that, at this point in his career. Also: I remember reading an interview with Bowie where he claimed that he was so ripped at the time that he has no recollection of recording this duet. Really? Hmmm... this was after he'd cleaned up his act, supposedly.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:16 AM on December 16, 2013


Crosby was a pretty complex and contradictory guy, and his biography has a lot of stories that make him seem not especially nice. (See, for instance, his combative relationship with his brother Bob, who was the badleader for the Bobcats, who did the great "Big Noise from Winnetka.")

Whatever he may have been personally, his was the voice of a century. And his vocal mastery always startles me. In singing, there is a place called "the pocket," where you don't hit exactly on the beat, but just before or after it, which will either give the song some extra energy or make it seem deliberate and laconic.

Bing lived in the pocket. It's amazing when you start paying attention to it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:52 AM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


From the Pushing Ahead of the Dame post about Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy, here's the Will Ferrel/John C. Reilly version and Bowie's take on the filming;

"[Bing] was not there at all…He looked like a little old orange sitting on a stool. He had been made up very heavily and his skin was a bit pitted, and there was just nobody home at all, you know? It was the most bizarre experience. I didn’t know anything about him. I just knew my mother liked him."
posted by merocet at 5:58 AM on December 16, 2013


Bing had a ranch up here in the far reaches in NorCal, and was a pretty good neighbor.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:20 AM on December 16, 2013


A story on the making of the song White Christmas https://soundcloud.com/ivory-league/ivory-christmas.
posted by emypocu at 2:59 PM on December 16, 2013


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