Bing Crosby – Silent Night

This song is not only my favorite Christmas Carol… I think it’s up there with the best songs ever written. I hope everyone has a great Christmas/Holiday.

There are over 26,000 different versions of “Silent Night” on Spotify, meaning you could listen to a different rendition of the carol every night for 72 years.

Halfway through December 1818, the church organ in St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, 11 miles north of Salzburg in what is now Austria, broke (a popular version of the story claims that mice had eaten out the bellows). The curate, 26-year-old Josef Mohr, realized it couldn’t be repaired in time to provide music on Christmas Eve. He told his troubles to his friend, a headmaster and amateur composer named Franz Gruber, while giving him as a present a poem he had written two years earlier. Gruber was so taken by the rhythm of the poem that he set it to music, and on Christmas Eve there was music after all. Mohr played his guitar while the pair sang the song. It was the first public performance of “Stille Nacht” or as we know it “Silent Night.”

It is believed that Silent Night has been translated into over 300 languages around the world, and it is one of the most popular carols of all time.

From Songfacts

Bing Crosby’s version became his best-seller of the 1930s.

Music licensing company PPL announced in December 2010 that this carol tops the list of Britain’s “most recorded Christmas song of all time.” Said Mike Dalby, Lead Reporting Analyst at PPL: “Silent Night is a beautiful carol which encapsulates the feeling of Christmas entirely. Everyone from punk band The Dickies right through to Sinead O’Connor has recorded it, which exemplifies just how much it resonates with all different types of artists.”

According to PPL, Sinead O’Connor’s 1991 recording was the most popular version of the carol in Britain.

When the organ builder finally did show up to repair the St. Nicholas organ, he was given a copy of the “Silent Night” composition and brought it home. From there, traveling folk singers got a hold of it and began incorporating the carol into their repertoire. It didn’t make its way to America until 1839.

As the song gained traction throughout Europe, Franz Gruber composed several different orchestral arrangements. He donated all profits from the carol to local charities for children and the elderly, and eventually died penniless.

According to Steve Sullivan’s Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings, Crosby, a devout Catholic, refused to record the religious song, arguing it would be “like cashing in on the church or the Bible.” Crosby met with Father Richard Ranaghan, a priest trying to raise money for overseas missions, and decided to donate the royalties to the cause. But Ranaghan died in a car accident later that year, so the money went to several charities throughout the US and abroad.

This song lends itself to interpretation because the first four bars are all on the same chord. Jim Brickman explains: “There’s room to treat it dynamically in a different way: in the tempo, in the sounds and silences, in the time signature.”

Silent Night

Silent night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright.
‘Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright.
‘Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Bing Crosby & David Bowie – Peace On Earth / The Little Drummer Boy

I know what I was doing on November 30, 1977. I was watching Merrie Olde Christmas special as a kid. I didn’t appreciate the weirdness of the combination of Bing Crosby and David Bowie at the time. Something that the seventies did well and sometimes bad…was to intersect generations on variety shows. This one was a good combination.

This special had guest stars  Twiggy, David Bowie, Ron Moody, Stanley Baxter, and The Trinity Boys Choir. It was the duet with Bing Crosby and David Bowie that has been remembered. I remember watching this knowing that Bing Crosby had died the month earlier. The duet was taped on September 11, 1977, and Crosby died on October 14, 1977.

David Bowie’s mother was a huge Bing Crosby fan and Bing Crosby’s children were big David Bowie fans…so the two agreed to sing together. It was questionable at first if it would work out.

Mary Crosby: “The doors opened and David walked in with his wife,” she recalled. “They were both wearing full-length mink coats, they have matching full makeup and their hair was bright red. We were thinking, ‘Oh my god.'” Nathaniel Crosby, Bing’s son, added: “It almost didn’t happen. I think the producers told him to take the lipstick off and take the earring out. It was just incredible to see the contrast.”

Another possible hitch happened with Bowie. He didn’t like The Little Drummer Boy and refused to sing it. The writers then wrote a revised version of the song that he liked. They wrote a counterpart section for Bowie to sing. Crosby liked the challenge of his part. The rest is history and one of the most unusual pairings you will ever see…

One funny part is Bowie’s idea of “older fellas” at the time is John Lennon and Harry Nilsson.

The Little Drummer Boy (Peace On Earth)

Come they told me pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
A newborn king to see pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
Our finest gifts we bring pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
Rum-pum-pum-pum, rum-pum-pum-pum

[Verse 2: Bowie and Crosby]
Peace on Earth can it be?
Come they told me pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
Years from now, perhaps we’ll see?
A newborn king to see pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
See the day of glory
Our finest gift we bring pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
See the day, when men of good will
To lay before the king pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
Live in peace, live in peace again
Rum-pum-pum-pum, Rum-pum-pum-pum
Peace on Earth
So to honour him pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
Can it be
When we come

[Bridge: Bowie and Crosby in unison]
Every child must be made aware
Every child must be made to care
Care enough for his fellow man
To give all the love that he can

[Verse 4: Bowie and Crosby]
I pray my wish will come true
Little baby pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
For my child and your child too
I stood beside him there pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
He’ll see the day of glory
I played my drum for him pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
See the day when men of good will
I played my best for him pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
Live in peace, live in peace again
Rum-pum-pum-pum, rum-pum-pum-pum
Peace on Earth
Me and my drum
Can it be

Can it be