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Profile of Bing Crosby
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Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby (May 3, 1903 â€“ October 14, 1977) was one of the most popular and influential American singers and actors of the 20th century whose career flourished from 1926 until his death in 1977.
In terms of his influence on music and popular culture he is rivaled only by Elvis Presley and The Beatles .
Known for his large range, rich baritone and vibrant, clear enunciation, 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 BublÃ©. 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.
In 1962 Crosby was the first person to receive the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Harry Lillis Crosby was born in Tacoma, Washington on May 3, 1903 in a house that his father built (1112 North J Street, Tacoma, Washington). His family later moved to Spokane, Washington in 1906 to find work. His parents were English-American Harry Lowe Crosby and Irish-American Catherine Harrigan. His paternal ancestors, Thomas Prence and Patience Brewster, were born in England and immigrated to the U.S. in the 17th century; Brewster's family came over on the Mayflower.
It should be noted that Bing Crosby had no birth certificate and that his birth date was shrouded in mystery until his childhood Roman Catholic church in Tacoma, Washington, released the baptismal records that revealed his date of birth.
The nickname "Bing" was bestowed upon on him by a childhood friend, Valentine Hobart, who shared Bing's interest in a newspaper comic strip called "The Bingville Bugle". Valentine Hobart began calling Harry Crosby "Bingo from Bingville." Eventually the nickname was shortened to "Bing" and was adopted by Bing's other friends and even his teachers.
Bing Crosby's parents loved music and they both loved to sing. Bing was even sent away to singing lessons, but dropped out because he did not like the demands of the training. Bing's favorite singer and idol was Al Jolson. However, Bing's style is quite different from Jolson's loud, high volume approach to singing.
Bing enrolled in the Jesuit-run Gonzaga College in Spokane in the fall of 1920 with the intent to become a lawyer. While in Gonzaga he sent away for a set of mail order drums. After much practice he soon became good enough and was invited to join a local band which was made up of mostly local high school kids called the "Musicaladers", managed by one Al Rinker. He made so much money doing this he decided to drop out of school during his final year, to pursue a career in show business.
In 1926, Crosby caught the eye of Paul Whiteman (a.k.a The King of Jazz) while singing on the vaudeville in Los Angeles. Hired to join one of the most popular bands in America, the fledgling vocalist would receive a musical education from the greatest musicians of the era. Unlike the typical vaudeville "shouters," he learned to work the microphone (and the crowd) drawing the audience in with his smooth, gentle crooning.
Bing soon became the star attraction of the band and sang Whiteman's biggest hit of 1928, "Ol' Man River." However, his repeated youthful peccadilloes forced Whiteman to fire him 1930. Crosby had no desire to step out on his own, but was now forced into a solo career.
In early 1931, Bing landed his first hit under his own name with "I Surrender, Dear." He contined to chart throughout the year with "Out Of Nowhere," "Just One More Chance," "Wrap your Troubles In Dreams" and "I Found A Million Dollar Baby." Crosby became so popular Mack Sennett (of Keystone Kops fames) signed him up for six two reelers, each based on one of his songs. (Today this is Redistributed under the title of "Road to Hollywood.")
That same year (1931), Bing made his solo debut on a popular CBS radio show and by 1936, replaced his former boss, Paul Whiteman, as the host of NBC's Kraft Music Hall, a weekly radio where he would remain for the next ten years.
Crosby's entertainment trifecta led to major motion picture contract with Paramount Pictures beginning with The Big Broadcast Of 1932. He went on to star in some 55 full-length films. For five consecutive years, from 1944 thru 1948, Bing was the the #1 box office draw in America. In 1944 Bing won an Oscar for his performance in "Going My Way"
Crosby's biggest musical hit was his recording of Irving Berlin's (now famous) "White Christmas" which is one of the (if not the) most popular songs ever recorded, besides being Number #1 three times, "White Christmas,â€ is the only single to make American pop charts twenty times, every year but one between 1942 and 1962 and in 1998, after a long absence, his 1947 version hit the charts in Britain (This is just Bing Crosby's versions of the songs). 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.
Crosby also had regular radio shows from the 1930sâ€“1950s, during the 1940s he recorded many songs with the Andrews Sisters, he starred in a network television sitcom in 1964â€“1965, 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.
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 the most popular entertainer ever. 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." 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.
Number One Hits: 39
Number of weeks at Number One: 173
Number of top 30 Hits: 383
Number of Movies acted in: 60 (5 Academy Awards)
Consecutive weeks at the number one position: 23 (1944)
Most Songs in top thirty in one year: 27 (1939)
Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" is the most popular single ever, the only single to make American pop charts twenty times, every year but one between 1942 and 1962. In 1998, after a long absence, his 1947 version hit the charts in Britain. It has also sold over 37 million copies worldwide.
Crosby was married twice. He was married to actress/nightclub singer Dixie Lee from 1930 until her death from cancer 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 Frances Crosby, best known as being the woman who shot J.R. Ewing on Dallas.
After Bing's death from a heart attack at age 74 while golfing in Madrid, Spain, his eldest son from his first marriage, Gary Crosby, wrote a highly critical 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. Many years after his death, Joan Rivers accused Crosby of having been a pedophile who sexually abused his first wife and four sons.
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, his youngest 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).
At his death, he was worth over $150,000,000 USD due to his shrewd investments in oil, real estate, and other commodities, making him one of Hollywood's then wealthiest residents along with Fred MacMurray and best friend Bob Hope.
NOTE: Due to instructions from his family, the year of birth engraved on Bing Crosby's tombstone is 1904, rather than the correct date, 1903.
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. Although these were reported as having been Crosby's last words, it is believed that his actual last words were, "Let's go get a Coke."
Crosby was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.
- The King of Jazz (1930)
- Two Plus Fours (1930) (short subject)
- Check and Double Check (1930)
- Reaching for the Moon (1930)
- Confessions of a Co-Ed (1931)
- One More Chance (1931) (short subject)
- Billboard Girl (1932) (short subject)
- Hollywood on Parade (1932) (short subject)
- The Big Broadcast (1932)
- Hollywood on Parade No. 11 (1933) (short subject)
- Blue of the Night (1933) (short subject)
- Dream House (1933) (short subject)
- Sing, Bing, Sing (1933) (short subject)
- Hollywood on Parade No. 9 (1933) (short subject)
- College Humor (1933)
- Too Much Harmony (1933)
- Please (1933) (short subject)
- Going Hollywood (1933)
- Just an Echo (1934) (short subject)
- We're Not Dressing (1934)
- I Surrender Dear (1934) (short subject)
- She Loves Me Not (1934)
- Star Night at the Cocoanut Grove (1934) (short subject)
- Here Is My Heart (1934)
- Mississippi (1935)
- Two for Tonight (1935)
- The Big Broadcast of 1936 (1935)
- Anything Goes (1936)
- Rhythm on the Range (1936)
- Pennies from Heaven (1936)
- Waikiki Wedding (1937)
- Double or Nothing (1937)
- Don't Hook Now (1938) (short subject)
- Dr. Rhythm (1938)
- Hollywood Handicap (1938) (short subject)
- Sing You Sinners (1938)
- Screen Snapshots: Stars on Horseback (1939) (short subject)
- Paris Honeymoon (1939)
- East Side of Heaven (1939)
- The Star Maker (1939)
- Road to Singapore (1940)
- Screen Snapshots Series 19, No. 6 (1940) (short subject)
- Swing with Bing (1940) (short subject)
- Rhythm on the River (1940)
- If I Had My Way (1940)
- Angels of Mercy (1941) (short subject)
- Road to Zanzibar (1941)
- Birth of the Blues (1941)
- My Favorite Blonde (1942) (cameo)
- Holiday Inn (1942)
- Road to Morocco (1942)
- Star Spangled Rhythm (1942)
- Show Business at War (1943) (short subject)
- Dixie (1943)
- Higher and Higher (1944) (cameo) (unconfirmed role)
- Going My Way (1944)
- Road to Victory (1944) (short subject)
- The Princess and the Pirate (1944) (cameo)
- Here Come the Waves (1944)
- The All-Star Bond Rally (1945) (short subject)
- Duffy's Tavern (1945)
- Hollywood Victory Caravan (1945) (short subject)
- The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)
- Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Celebrations (1945) (short subject)
- Road to Hollywood (Documentry)
- Road to Utopia (1946)
- Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Fathers and Sons (1947) (short subject)
- Blue Skies (1946)
- My Favorite Brunette (1947) (cameo)
- Welcome Stranger (1947)
- Variety Girl (1947)
- Road to Rio (1947)
- The Emperor Waltz (1948)
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949)
- Screen Snapshots: Hollywood's Happy Homes (1949) (short subject)
- Jolson Sings Again (1949) (voice)
- Top o' the Morning (1949)
- The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) (voice)
- Alberta Vacation (1950) (short subject)
- Riding High (1950)
- Screen Actors (1950) (short subject)
- Mr. Music (1950)
- You Can Change the World (1951) (short subject)
- Here Comes the Groom (1951)
- Angels in the Outfield (1951) (cameo)
- The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) (cameo)
- Son of Paleface (1952) (cameo)
- Just for You (1952)
- Crusade for Prayer (1952) (short subject)
- Road to Bali (1952)
- Off Limits (1953) (appears on a TV)
- Scared Stiff (1953) (cameo)
- Little Boy Lost (1953)
- White Christmas (1954)
- The Country Girl (1954)
- Hollywood Mothers and Fathers (1955) (short subject)
- Showdown at Ulcer Gulch (1956) (short subject)
- Bing Presents Oreste (1956) (short subject)
- Anything Goes (1956)
- High Society (1956)
- The Heart of Show Business (1957) (short subject)
- Man on Fire (1957)
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1958) (short subject) (voice)
- Alias Jesse James (1959) (cameo)
- Say One for Me (1959)
- Let's Make Love (1960) (cameo)
- High Time (1960)
- Pepe (1960) (cameo)
- The Road to Hong Kong (1962)
- Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964)
- Cinerama's Russian Adventure (1966) (documentary) (narrator)
- Stagecoach (1966)
- Bing Crosby's Washington State (1968) (short subject)
- Dr. Cook's Garden(1971)
- The World of Sport Fishing (1972) (documentary)
- Cancel My Reservation (1972) (cameo)
- Just One More Time (1974) (short subject)
- That's Entertainment! (1974)
- 1953 Le Bing: Song Hits of Paris
- 1953 Some Fine Old Chestnuts
- 1953 White Christmas soundtrack (w/ Peggy Lee and Danny Kaye)
- 1956 Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings
- 1958 Fancy Meeting You Here Rosemary Clooney
- Download sample of "White Christmas"
- Download sample of "O Holy Night"
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