There are two birthdays deserving attention today, both iconic and from the universe of music and entertainment, but from completely opposite worlds. Born in 1903, Bing Crosby used his baritone voice and recording technology to develop a personal singing style that made him the nation's top entertainer for a generation beginning in the mid-1930s. Young people probably know little if anything about Crosby. He died in 1977 but OTR thinks he sits at the pinnacle of the American entertainment industry--along with Bob Hope--and is well worth exploring if you enjoy popular culture. The Crosby family has authorized a comprehensive site about The Crooner if readers want more information. For a small taste of his talent, here is Crosby singing to Grace Kelly in the 1956 film, High Society :
Our second birthday celebrant is Pete Seeger, an icon-- still with us at 92-- who has been described as the most successful communist in the United States. OTR will let readers discover the politics for themselves and focus on Seeger's remarkable talent as a musician, singer, and songwriter. Seeger was born into a musical family, took up the family's leftist politics, and made a name for himself as a "protest singer" in the 1940s. In 1950, he was a member of the folk group, The Weavers, and in the bow wave of a folk music revival in the U.S. It was short-lived, however, as the group was blacklisted in 1953 for suspected political reasons. Seeger found himself at the forefront of the 1960s folk revival as well. Over these last decades Seeger has continued singing and pursuing his social, political, and environmental activism around the world. For more information and a host of links, here is his Wikipedia entry.
For a taste of Pete Seeger the performer, here he is singing lead and playing his banjo on the first recording (1949) of If I Had A Hammer, co-written with Lee Hays, also with The Weavers:
Although this video highlights Seeger, it does not do justice to the beautiful harmony The Weavers produced. Readers may want to explore the Internet for more of their recordings. Their 1981 reunion concert at Carnegie Hall is a particularly moving statement on the American music experience.
And here is Judy Collins and Seeger singing his composition, Turn, Turn, Turn, written for the words of Ecclesiastes: