Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Commemorating Bing Crosby


The American entertainer, Bing Crosby (1903-1977), used his baritone voice in combination with new recording technology to develop a personal singing style that made him the nation's top entertainer for a generation beginning in the mid-1930's. Young people probably know little if anything about Crosby but I think he sits at the pinnacle of the 20th century American entertainment industry along with his close friend, Bob Hope. Crosby's contributions are well worth exploring if you enjoy popular culture, and are essential if you are a fan of the Great American Songbook. 




Bing Crosby 1930s.jpg
Crosby publicity photo from the 1930's



I remember him for four reasons. First is his recording of Irving Berlin's White Christmas. As long as people think about the security and warmth of home and family - and when will that stop - they will appreciate Crosby's recording. His version has sold the most copies - over 100,000,000 - of any song ever recorded (Guinness World Records). Second is the series of "Road picture" comedies he made with co-stars Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour between 1940 and 1962. Third is his role in two films, Holiday Inn (1942) and its remake, White Christmas (1954). Crosby premiered the song, White Christmas, in 1942 to a receptive public already weary from the early months of World War II. [Holiday Inn is a better film than its lavish, colorful, but still enjoyable remake.] Fourth is his series of Christmas specials for television.

Crosby's career may have peaked about 50 years ago but his impact on the entertainment industry, as both a star and entrepreneur, is still with us. Just how much of a star was he? The 2014 Public Broadcasting Service program, American Masters, stated: 

Bing Crosby has sold close to one billion records, tapes, compact disks and digital downloads around the world. He may be the biggest recording artist of all time. Only The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson can rival Bing's sales record. 

For the full story, I suggest readers visit his official site after reading the Wikipedia link above. 

It would be inappropriate to write about Crosby without providing readers with a few examples of his talent. Here is Swinging On A Star, a song he introduced in the 1944 film, Going My Way. The song was an Academy Award winner that year.





And here Crosby sings the lyrics of his good friend, Johnny Mercer, who as songwriter, singer, and entrepreneur, was another major presence shaping American entertainment in the 20th century.






May 3 marks the 114th anniversary of Crosby's birth.


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