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Bing Crosby

From Academic Kids

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Bing wooed fans with a sensuous voice, wit, and good looks.

Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby (May 3, 1903October 14, 1977) was one of the most popular American singers and actors of the the 20th century, whose career spanned from 1927 until his death in 1977.

Crosby is considered one of the finest vocalists ever, and is credited as being the inspiration for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Dean Martin and more recently Michael Buble. In 1992, Artie Shaw offered his opinion of Crosby's place in American culture in these terms: "The thing you have to understand about Bing Crosby is that he was the first hip white person born in the United States"1.

Contents

Youth

Bing Crosby was born in Tacoma, Washington, of Irish descent. He attended Gonzaga High School Spokane, Washington and graduated in 1920. He grew up with Al Rinker, the younger brother of singer Mildred Bailey, in Spokane. Crosby and Rinker used Bailey's connections and joined Paul Whiteman's Rhythm Boys after attending Gonzaga University. He sang with dance bands from 1925 to 1930.

Popular success

Bing Crosby came to national attention while with the popular Whiteman Orchestra, with whom he made his film debut in The King of Jazz (1930). From then on he was a top stage and radio performer and a best-selling recording artist. His style of singing soon won him the title of "Crooner of the Century".

The technological innovation of the microphone appeared just as Crosby was beginning his career. With microphones, singers could offer a softer, more intimate style than before, Crosby was one of the first singers to exploit this technique successfully.

Crosby's biggest musical hit was his recording of the Irving Berlin classic "White Christmas" which is believed to have sold in excess of 30 million copies. He first sang the song in the 1942 musical "Holiday Inn" costarring Fred Astaire, and it topped the charts throughout the end of 1942. It reappeared at #1 in 1945, and again in January 1947, the only single in history to achieve three separate stays at the top (albeit in two recorded versions). He collected 21 other gold records, including "I'll Be Home for Christmas", "Too-Ra-Lo-Ra-Loo-Ral" and "Swinging on a Star". In 1962 he became the first recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. His popularity as a singer was matched by his success as an actor. He appeared in dozens of movies from the 1930s1960s, and received the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1944.

Crosby also had regular radio shows from the 1930s1950s, during the 1940s he recorded many songs with the Andrews Sisters, he starred in a network television sitcom in 19641965, and made numerous short films and television appearances.

Crosby's desire to pre-record his radio shows, combined with a dissatisfaction with the available aluminum recording disks, was a significant factor in the development of magnetic tape recording and the radio industry's adoption of it. Crosby became an investor in Ampex, and Bing Crosby Enterprises became a distributor of the Ampex 200 tape recorder used to record the radio programs. History repeated when Crosby was asked to do a television show and demanded that it be pre-recorded, spurring the development and adoption of videotape.

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Golfballs for the Scrap Rubber Drive during WWII

Crosby recorded a version of Little Drummer Boy with David Bowie just one month prior to his death. The duet went on to attain cult status and charted well in countries around the world.

He turned down an offer to play "Columbo" because he didn't want it to interfere with his golf schedule.

Statistically, Crosby is probably the most popular entertainer ever, although absolutely precise chart figures are lacking. Billboard statistician Joel Whitburn tackled the entire century of record sales, jukebox plays, sheet music sales, "Your Hit Parade" rankings, and other data in his book "Pop Memories 1890-1954." Though some have questioned his methodology, Whitburn concluded that Crosby had had 322 charting singles (the bandleader Paul Whiteman was second with 220). Crosby's total does not include another 36 charting appearances on various bandleaders' recordings, including 30 with the Paul Whiteman orchestra, and three additional #1 songs.

If we include his big band performances towards his personal total, Crosby had 39 #1 songs that spent a staggering 176 weeks atop the charts of the time (Elvis Presley spent 80 weeks atop the later charts). Whiteman's 32 #1 hits are second on the all-time list.

Crosby was also among Hollywood's official "Top Ten Box Office Attractions" list for 12 consecutive years, from 1943-1954, heading the list five times. His radio shows were also hugely popular.

Personal life

Crosby was married twice. He married nightclub singer Dixie Lee in 1930 and was married to her until her death in 1952. They had four sons. Dixie was an alcoholic, and the 1947 film Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman is indirectly based on her life. After Dixie's death, Bing married the much-younger actress Kathryn Grant in 1957 and had three more children with her, including actress Mary Crosby, best known as being the woman who shot J.R. Ewing on Dallas.

After his death, his eldest son from his first marriage, Gary, wrote a controversial memoir (Going My Own Way) depicting him as an autocratic and abusive father. Two of his children, Lindsay and Dennis, committed suicide. Many people believe that Crosby's extraordinary abilities were due to his having bipolar disorder.

Denise Crosby, Dennis' daughter, is also an actress and best known for her role as Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Nathaniel Crosby, a son from his second marriage, was a high-level golfer who won the U.S. Amateur at age 19 in 1981, becoming the youngest-ever winner of that event (a record later broken by Tiger Woods).

There has been some uncertainty about Crosby's date of birth, but this has been cleared up by biographer Gary Giddins. (Due to instructions from his family, the year of birth engraved on Bing Crosby's tombstone is 1904, rather than the correct date, 1903.)

At his death, he was worth over $150 million dollars because of his investments in Oil, real estate, and other capitals.

Last words

Crosby was a keen amateur golfer who appeared in many charity events. He died after a round of eighteen holes in which he shot a respectable 85. Of his death, biographer Giddins has written: "His last words were characteristic. Walking off the eighteenth green of the La Moraleja Golf Club, in a suburb of Madrid, Bing Crosby said, 'That was a great game of golf, fellas,' and then took a few steps and was gone"2. Shortly after 6:00 p.m. October 14, 1977, he suffered a massive heart attack.

Crosby was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Filmography

Albums

Samples

References

  • Giddins, Gary. A Pocketful of Dreams: The Early Years, 1903-1940. Boston, New York, & London: Little, Brown and Company, 2001. ISBN 0316886459
  1. A Pocketful of Dreams, p. 259
  2. A Pocketful of Dreams, p. 3

External links

da:Bing Crosby de:Bing Crosby es:Bing Crosby it:Bing Crosby nl:Bing Crosby pl:Bing Crosby sv:Bing Crosby

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