Friday, May 3, 2013

Happy Birthday, Bing Crosby!

I first knew of Bing Crosby from his annual Christmas TV specials in the early Seventies. By that time he was old, in his sixties and seventies. He wasn't what you would consider "cool," but his wife was pretty and his children were cute and talented. (His daughter, Mary, went on to shoot JR on "Dallas.") In his last special he sang a duet with David Bowie, of all people. It was a beautiful mish-mash of "Little Drummer Boy," which was always one of my favorites, and ""Peace On Earth," an original composition. It was from that day forward one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs, and I listen to it many times every year. Bing died before that special aired, on October 14, 1977.
However today we're here to celebrate his birth, not his death. Bing was born on May 3, 1903 in Tacoma, Washington, which means he would have been 110 years old today.

When I went looking for photos of Bing Crosby to attach to this article there were plenty of different Bings to choose from. There was very-young Bing, when he was just starting out as a "crooner" in the early '30s. There was the pipe-smoking comedian who teamed up with Bob Hope to make several "Road To...." movies; I've seen one or two of these and they are pleasant enough, but generally I like these two in shorter doses. There was the older, laid-back debonair sophisticate from movies like "High Society." And there are some serious actor versions, such as when he appeared in "The Country Girl" with Grace Kelly. He was an alcoholic has-been singer/actor and she played his wife. He was nominated for an Academy Award; she won! Or I guess I should have said he was nominated *again*, as he had already won Best Actor for his role in "Going My Way." (1944) I have never seen this film, so I've reserved it from the library and will watch it next week.
Crosby was also important in improving various recording standards. When he was a huge radio star pre-World War II he and all other shows had to tape two live recordings for broadcast, one for each coast. Bing Crosby was instrumental in raising the recording standards so that he and his band or cast could record only one "live" show, and have that broadcast later on the West Coast. An unforeseen benefit of this advanced technology is that we can still hear a lot of these wonderful shows, as they were saved for posterity. It's thanks to Bing Crosby that we can still listen to and enjoy recordings made more than 50 years ago.

A little known Bing Crosby fact is that his production company was responsible for the 1960s TV comedy, Hogan's Heroes.

Bing Crosby will always be with us, if only because his song "White Christmas" is dragged out and played over and over again every December. I'm not a big fan of that song, but for all I've learned about Bing and what he's given us, I salute him.

Happy Birthday, Bing Crosby!
From The Tonight Show in 1976
They're all gone now...

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