Monday, October 10, 2022


Here is the Time Magazine article that was published on October 24, 1977 - 10 days after Bing died in Spain. Today marks 45 years since Bing died, and I figured it was fun to revisit the article...

The sound of him was always unmistakable. To many, and surely to most Americans beyond a certain age, his voice was one of the few verities of popular entertainment. It seemed to dance out as irresistibly as a whimsical sigh of relief, full of fluid and breezy resonances perfectly suited to the fragile and often sticky sentiments of the romantic era that swept him to superstardom. His way of crooning was, as well, exactly attuned to the easygoing personality he projected onstage and in most of his 60 movies. His style was so relaxed -- almost sleepy -- that it was hard to remember he won an Oscar for skillful acting as a priest in Going My Way (1944). Only at golf, which he often appeared to take more seriously than his career, did he ever publicly show tension. Indeed, when Bing Crosby died of a heart attack at 74 last week, nobody who knew him well could be surprised that the end came on the links.

Crosby collapsed after carding an 85 on the suburban La Moraleja Golf Club on the outskirts of Madrid. Only the day before, he had arrived in Spain from England after a successful tour climaxed by a sellout performance at London's Palladium. The tour, he told reporters in Madrid, had been a reassuring test of his recovery from the back injury he got last March when he fell from the stage in Pasadena, Calif., during a celebration of his 50th year in show business.

Crosby will of course sing on and on. And not just in records of White Christmas, the tinselly ballad that Crosby, with the help of World War II's general homesickness, transformed into a national holiday anthem. Echoes of Crosby's voice have passed into the style of every important prerock balladeer in the U.S. Long before his personal style was submerged by Elvis Presley and all his musical progeny, Crosby had become not only one of the world's richest entertainers, worth tens of millions, but perhaps the most influential pop singer of his time. Last week Frank Sinatra was one of a troupe of show-biz giants who affirmed not merely their sorrow but Crosby's enduring significance. Said Sinatra: "He was the father of my career, the idol of my youth and a dear friend of my maturity. Bing leaves a gaping hole in our music and in the lives of everybody who loved him. And that's just about everybody."

True. Not the least remarkable aspect of Crosby's career was that once it waxed big in the early 1930s, it never waned. He aroused unusual affection in his public. Bing outstripped both General Dwight Eisenhower and President Harry Truman in one popularity poll of the late 1940s. Any one of a variety of casual nicknames -- Der Bingle, Old Dad, the Groaner -- was enough to identify him in a newspaper headline. In a cartoon his image could be evoked with merely a nonchalant tilted smile, or by one of the pipes or hats or gaudy sports shirts he affected as part of a studiously insouciant manner.

Many of the names got pinned on him by his pal Bob Hope. Crosby and Hope became linked by the sequence of seven Road pictures made with Dorothy Lamour. Indeed, they were coupled ever after the very first in 1940, The Road to Singapore. Bing and Bob were frequently engaged onstage in a gibing dialogue that was itself like the soft shoe they also did together -- once while singing, hands joined, Mairzy Doats. "People will think we're in love," Crosby sang to a throng of troops during World War II -- and worked in the line, "Don't laugh at Hope's jokes so much." Out popped Hope, barbing: "Keep crooning, Bing, you make a great target."

The Road shows were rummage sales of stuff out of vaudeville, burlesque -- marvelously shoddy masterpieces of farce and fantasy, stitched together with cliches and ad libs. The series proved, if nothing else, that Crosby was nearly as deft a comedian as Hope. But by then Bing was a giant with or without Hope...


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