One of my mother’s favorite holiday songs is “The Little Drummer Boy.” The “original version”:


While we have numerous recordings of this on various holiday records, the one I know best is the Bing Crosby and David Bowie version, “The Little Drummer Boy: Peace on Earth”, which is a different song than the original.


While listening to the song this week, as I was trying to get into the Holiday mood, the lyrics “peace on earth” kept coming to mind. In doing a bit of research about this somewhat odd duo of Bing Crosby and David Bowie, I discovered that the initial lyrics of the song didn’t include the phrase “peace on earth” ( My curiosity was peaked, and I continued to google (I mean research!) how the performance of these two music legends came to be.  While I can’t testify to the accuracy and validity of my sources, I read that David Bowie did not want to sing “The Little Drummer Boy” for Crosby’s Holiday special in 1977, and people wondered if Bing Crosby even knew who David Bowie was. However, it appears that at the time Bowie decided to be on this special TV show as a way to appear “normalized”. The story goes that the tune and lyrics for “Peace on Earth” were re-written by David Bowie, Ian Fraser, Larry Grossman, and Alan Kohan, just for this recording. If you listen closely, you can hear Crosby sing more of the traditional “Little Drummer Boy”, while Bowie brings in the phrase “Peace on Earth.” (Source:

Though I’m not old enough to be part of Bowie’s “glory days” of glam rock, my older second cousins exposed me to this artist when I was a youngster, and I still have clear memories of seeing Labyrinth in the theater (i.e. staring David Bowie). Whether we attribute the meaning and lyrics of “Peace on Earth” to Bowie and his co-writers, I believe it is a beautiful song- one that still has meaning in a world not is still not peaceful, or for that matter, tolerant. See the powerful lyrics below, in which I bold the “Peace on Earth” message.

Peace on Earth, can it be?

(A newborn King to see, pa-ram-pam-pam-pam)

Years from now, perhaps we’ll see

(Our finest gifts we bring, pa-ram-pam-pam-pam)

See the day of glory

(See the fine King, pa-ram-pam-pam-pam, ra-pam-pam-pam)

See the day when men of good will


Live in peace, live in peace again

(So newborn king, pa-ram-pam-pam-pam)

Peace on Earth

Can it be?

(Can we come?)

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

(Little baby, pa-ram-pam-pam-pam)

I pray my wish will come true

(I see the child, pa-ram-pam-pam-pam)

For my child and your child too

(I’ll take my trumpet, pa-ram-pam-pam-pam)

He’ll see the day of glory

(I’ll play my best for Him, pa-ram-pam-pam-pam, ra-pam-pam-pam)

See the day when men of good will


Live in peace, live in peace again

(And he smiled at me, pa-ram-pam-pam-pam)

Peace on Earth

(Me and my drum)

Can it be?


So you can see that David Bowie wanted to strengthen the message of this song. Yes, the lyrics he wrote used gendered language, but perhaps we can forgive him because this was 1977, on the Bing Crosby show, when he was trying to appear “normal,” and normal was gendered at that time. But if you know David Bowie’s work you know he was not about dichotomous gender roles. Think of “Rebel, Rebel”, one  of my favorite songs by him.

Thus, dear Feminist Reflection readers, I leave you with this to reflect upon. This recording of The Little Drummer Boy was from 1977. It is now 2015. Where are we now? Do we have peace on earth?  No. We still live with bigotry, prejudices, and fear. Racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and related oppressions still exist. Gains have been made, such as the legalization of same sex-marriage by SOCUTUS and students and others willing to stand up for Black Lives Matters. Yet, you can still be fired for being gay in some states, though you can be legally married. Young black men are shot. We deny sanctuary to refuges, although our government policies contributed to this global battle that resulted in a refugee crisis. We use our “beliefs” based on fear instead of compassion and tolerance.

As we approach the new year – in the midst of this Holiday season – I ask, how can we accomplish peace on earth? And how can we carry this message forward beyond “the Holidays” where giving seems to be cherished and praised more? How can we make structural changes that will bring about peace? How do we teach children and each other tolerance? How do we give peace to our own selves in a chaotic world?

Whatever you believe or do not believe in, I say, in trying to the be the most inclusive I can, “Happy Holidays”, but please keep in mind how we can create peace on earth.