Saturday, October 14, 2006
On this day in 1977, we lost a singing legend: the one and only Bing Crosby. Crosby possessed the most recorded human voice in history: a record that is still held to this very day! In 1992, the great Artie Shaw kind of summed it all up: The thing that you have to understand about Bing Crosby is that he was the first hip white person born in the United States". Bing died of a sudden massive heart attack in Madrid, Spain in 1977 doing what he loved best: playing golf. He had just scored an eighty-five-- which ain't bad for a guy seventy four years old. His last words were "That was a great game of golf, fellas" His son from his second marriage (Nathaniel) was a high level golfer who won the US Amateur at age nineteen in 1981, becoming the youngerst ever of that event ( a record later broken by Tiger Woods) Bing was born in Tacoma, Washington on May 3, 1903. His ancestors came over on the Mayflower. He has stated that singer Al Jolson really fascinated him and influenced him a lot. His career began eighty years ago in 1926 when he and his vocal duo partner, Al Rinkler caught the eye of Paul Whiteman, undeniably the most famous band leader of that time. He was hired for $150 a week-- big money then! In motion picture ticket sales Bing Crosby is still the third most popular actor trailing only Clark Gable and John Wayne-- not bad for a crooner! Before Crosby art was art and pop was pop, Legit singers worried constantly about staying in tune and reaching the upper balconies. Vaudvillians concerned themselves with their costumes and facial expressions. Most vocalists of that day displayed one dimensional vocal styles. Crosby perfected the fully rounded vocal expression: trying songs others wouldn't and putting a warmth to every song. He literally performed the lyric. Not simply sang the things that rhymed. Big difference! Before Crosby, the lyric was treated as words. After Crosby, the lyrics were treated as the reason you wanted to sing the song in the first place! Crosby could melt a tone away, scoop it flat and slide it up to the eventual pitch as a glissando, sometimes singing a note right on the button and take dipthongs for long musical rides. Vocal critics claimed that the octave B flat to B flat in Bing's voice in the 1930's was one of the loveliest sounds ever made by a barritone: both classical and popular. Mel Torme once said that "Bing Crosby's low notes could make your bass woofers beg for mercy". He introduced White Christmas in 1941 and so the grand old Christmas song this year turns 65: an elegant senior citizen if there ever was one! In all, he made 1700 recordings: forty one of these hit #1. He collected 23 gold and plantinum records in his lifetime. He' s the one artist to have three solid platinum Christmas hits: "White Christmas", "Silent Night" and "Do You Hear What I Hear?" He was also the first artist to use magnetic tape to record his radio shows. His wise, multiple and generous investments in the infant Ampex Recording company in 1940 made reel to reel tape, reel to reel tape recorders and multi-tracking possible. Before this time, motion picture film was used as the recording aperatus of the era. This led to the 1952 invention of video tape. Without Bing's wisdom, technology would be ten years behind what it is today! Mindblowing! Here's a real surprise. Bing Crosby was offered the role of Columbo (the television detective made famous by Peter Falk) but turned it down because he wanted nothing to interfere with his golf schedule! From 1946 to 1966 he was co-owner of the Pittsburg Pirates. At his death, the wise and fruitful investor Crosby was worth $150 million dollars. Adjusted for inflation in 2006 that's over 500 million dollars today! This was one amazing guy, despite the horrible lies that his eldest son Gary told about him in a memoir called "Going My Own Way" The ungrateful child strikes again. Bing Crosby is interred in Holy Cross Cemetary in Culver City, California. I will always love a Bing Crosby tune! God keep you, Bing! The angels must love it every time you sing for them!