When Christmastime comes rolling around, all the stations begin playing Christmas music. I love it, don't you? But one song in particular that stands out above the rest for me is "White Christmas". I often wondered about the person behind that soothing and beautiful voice. Who was Bing Crosby? Was he always a Hollywood icon and singing sensation? Let's see....
After reading quite a bit about his life, I can tell you he seemed to have lived an incredibly successful and full life until the age of 74. He wasn't always called Bing. He was actually born on May 3, 1903 and named Harry Lillis Crosby. He was the 4th of seven children and in 1910 was forever renamed Bing by a neighbor, 15year old Valentine Hobart. He shared Crosby's enthusiasm for "The Bugle" ( a feature in the newspaper) and called him "Bingo from Bingville". Eventually the last vowel was dropped and the nickname stuck.
Bing as a young man
Bing is with his basketball team~he is the 3rd from the left
By 1923, at the age of 20, Bing was asked to join a band composed of High School students who were much younger than himself called the Musicaladers. They eventually disbanded after two years but everyone has to start somewhere, right?
By 1925, he paired with Al Rinker and the made a vocal duo. In time, their popularity increased which led him to having his first number one hit in 1928 with the Whiteman Orchestra. On September 2, 1931, Crosby made his solo radio debut. Before the end of the year, he signed with both Brunswick Records and CBS Radio. Doing a weekly 15-minute radio broadcast, Crosby quickly became a huge hit.
As the 1930s unfolded, Crosby became the leading singer in America. Ten of the top 50 songs for 1931 featured Crosby. On a personal level, in 1930 he married Dixie Lee with whom he had four beautiful sons, two who were twins. They were married until her untimely passing at the age of 40 in 1952.
Bing with his wife Dixie and their twin sons, Dennis and Phillip
Bing's first four children; Dennis, Lindsay, Gary, and Phillip
While Bing's singing career and marriage was very successful and prospering, He also began a film career starting with King of Jazz (1930). Music always accompanied him on screen which led him to his biggest success in the films Holiday Inn (1942) and White Christmas (1954). He did seven Road to films with Bob Hope that ran from 1940 to 1962 and cemented them as a duo although neither made it official.
Crosby and close friend, Danny Kaye
Crosby didn't stop with music and films, he also branched out onto television! He was a guest on many variety shows and even got his family involved as well. In 1957, he married Kathryn Crosby and they had three children together; Harry, Mary, and Nathaniel.
Crosby with his wife Kathryn and children
Crosby was also was an entrepreneur, selling everything from coffee to juice. He also purchased a radio station! To add to all that he always was, a Hollywood superstar, talented singer, friend to many, husband, father of seven children, and entrepreneur-he also was a avid fan of thoroughbred race horses and even purchased some. He also was an avid sportsman, particularly in golf.
One of Crosby's products-photo from the Bing Crosby website
Crosby had a great deal of friends including some lifelong pals such as Bob Hope, Danny Kaye, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin. He seemed to be well liked and is said to be among the most popular and successful musical acts of the 20th century! I can see why now!
I knew he was famous and I was aware of many of his works but I really didn't know that this amazing talented man worked on his craft from at least 20 years old until he was 74 years old. He didn't stop doing the things he loved. He passed away on October 14, 1977 after he played a winning round of golf!
His four elder sons have all since passed on. His eldest Gary wrote a tell all book called "Going My Way" in which he described Crosby as being incredibly strict and according to his brothers included many false statements about their father. Phillip refused to speak to his brother from that point on. Tragically both Lindsay (the youngest) and Phillip (who is also the father of Denise Crosby) committed suicide at different points in their lives.
Although Crosby and his family did suffer through tragedies as many other families do, he left behind an incredible legacy. There is so much to learn and read about him! I highly suggest to check out the family's site on him that I shared above-its amazing!
I hope you enjoyed reading about Bing Crosby-I know I enjoyed learning more about him! Don't forget to tune in tomorrow for a spotlight on my favorite holiday film, "White Christmas".