The weird little duet by David Bowie and Bing Crosby, recorded for a Christmas special in 1977 and released as a single in 1982, has taken on a life of its own this holiday season.
It was a music teacher at Concord Academy in Massachusetts, Katherine K. Davis, who wrote the tune, first known as “Carol of the Drum” in 1941. It gained fame first through a version recorded by the Trapp Family Singers and was a hit song in the 1958 recording by the Harry Simeone Chorale.
Bing Crosby’s version with David Bowie was unusual not only because it blended the voices of two different generations in a somewhat stiffly-performed skit, but also because it combined the then-standard with a counterpoint melody written especially for Bowie on that special (reportedly because Bowie hated “Little Drummer Boy”).
For whatever reason this season, it’s been redone a handful of times by comics this season. One came from Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, doing a fairly faithful version of it, down to set and hairstyles, until Bowie gets a little angry at the end.
There are two different versions by Jack Black, one with Jason Segel on the College Humor site, and the other with Jimmy Fallon on “Late Night” – a kind of Blue Man Group version with many hues of paint.
Here’s the animated one with Black and Segel from College Humor:
There was this odd version from 1996 and a pre-Jon Stewart “Daily Show,” when host Craig Kilborn was joined by rocker Bob Mould.