Cover image for Bing Crosby : swinging on a star, the war years, 1940-1946 / Gary Giddins.
Title:
Bing Crosby : swinging on a star, the war years, 1940-1946 / Gary Giddins.
Title Variants:
Giddins, Gary.

Bing Crosby: a pocketful of dreams.
ISBN:
9780316887922
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Little Brown & Company, 2018.

©2018
Physical Description:
x, 724 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
General Note:
Illustrations and text on endpapers.
Contents:
V. 2. Swinging on a star -- the war years, 1940-1946.
Abstract:
"Bing Crosby dominated American popular culture in a way that few artists ever have. From the dizzy era of Prohibition through the dark days of the Second World War, he was a desperate nation's most beloved entertainer. But he was more than just a charismatic crooner: Bing Crosby redefined the very foundations of modern music, from the way it was recorded to the way it was orchestrated and performed. In this much-anticipated follow-up to the universally acclaimed first volume, NBCC Winner and preeminent cultural critic Gary Giddins now focuses on Crosby's most memorable period, the war years and the origin story of White Christmas. Set against the backdrop of a Europe on the brink of collapse, this groundbreaking work traces Crosby's skyrocketing career as he fully inhabits a new era of American entertainment and culture. While he would go on to reshape both popular music and cinema more comprehensively than any other artist, Crosby's legacy would be forever intertwined with his impact on the home front, a unifying voice for a nation at war. Over a decade in the making and drawing on hundreds of interviews and unprecedented access to numerous archives, Giddins brings Bing Crosby, his work, and his world to vivid life--firmly reclaiming Crosby's central role in American cultural history." -- book jacket.
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782.42164092 CRO GID Book Adult Biography
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Summary

Summary

Bing Crosby dominated American popular culture in a way that few artists ever have. From the dizzy era of Prohibition through the dark days of the Second World War, he was a desperate nation's most beloved entertainer. But he was more than just a charismatic crooner: Bing Crosby redefined the very foundations of modern music, from the way it was recorded to the way it was orchestrated and performed.

In this much-anticipated follow-up to the universally acclaimed first volume, NBCC Winner and preeminent cultural critic Gary Giddins now focuses on Crosby's most memorable period, the war years and the origin story of White Christmas . Set against the backdrop of a Europe on the brink of collapse, this groundbreaking work traces Crosby's skyrocketing career as he fully inhabits a new era of American entertainment and culture. While he would go on to reshape both popular music and cinema more comprehensively than any other artist, Crosby's legacy would be forever intertwined with his impact on the home front, a unifying voice for a nation at war. Over a decade in the making and drawing on hundreds of interviews and unprecedented access to numerous archives, Giddins brings Bing Crosby, his work, and his world to vivid life--firmly reclaiming Crosby's central role in American cultural history.


Author Notes

Gary Giddins lives in New York City.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

The legendary crooner segues from edgy jazz singer to national paterfamilias in the second volume of Giddins's scintillating biography. Jazz journalist and scholar Giddins (Satchmo) revisits the WWII era, when Bing Crosby was at the height of his popularity with a radio show, chart-topping records like "White Christmas" (still the world's all-time bestselling single), a string of hit movies from the cutup comedy Road to Morocco to his classic turn as Father O'Malley in Going My Way. He also performed at innumerable USO gigs for the troops, including a show on the frontline during which his audience was called away to repel a German attack. He became, Giddins argues, a new paradigm of American masculinity: manly, down-to-earth, easygoing, unflappable, and a comfortably reassuring pillar of faith and family in chaotic times. (Crosby hid the dysfunctions in his own family, including his wife's alcoholism and depression and his own harsh parenting style, which featured occasional beatings of his sons with a metal-studded leather belt.) Giddins packs exhaustive research and detail into his sprawling narrative while keeping the prose relaxed and vivid, and sprinkles in shrewd critical assessments of Crosby's music and films. Crosby emerges as an aloof, cool cat, and Giddins's engrossing show-biz bio richly recreates the popular culture he helped define. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


New York Review of Books Review

TELEVISION viewers who grew up in the 1970s knew Bing Crosby as the grandfatherly singing star of wholesome family specials, tuned into by their parents. Crosby was pipe-smoking, unruffled and witty, much like Father O'Malley, the Catholic priest he had played in two oft-rerun films, "Going My Way" and "The Bells of St. Mary's." By his side were his smiling wife and their model children, none of whom an even vaguely countercultural youth would have wanted to sit next to in the school cafeteria. Since his music was not theirs, newer generations had no way to know that Crosby had not only changed the course of American popular singing, he had helped create it. It was he who, more than any other vocalist, had freed that art from its turn-of-the-century stiffness and transformed it into conversation. Drawing on black influences, he made pop songs swing, while treating a new invention, the microphone, as if it were a friend's ear. Without him, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Dinah Shore, Dean Martin and countless other intimate singers could never have happened. A workhorse, he turned out a staggering number of recordings (including dozens of No. 1 hits) as well as films, radio shows and personal appearances. Whatever he did seemed offthe-cuff and effortless. For all that, his reputation hasn't ß. much endured. He lacked the qualities that have made Sinatra eternally seductive: coolness, sex appeal, danger, risk and a singing style that opened a window into his hard living and emotional extremes. Crosby had a far different job. With calm reassurance, he shepherded America through the Depression and World War II, then became a symbol of postwar domestic stability. Crosby applied his soothing baritone to love songs, folk songs, Irish songs, Hawaiian songs, country songs - he sang almost everything and revealed almost nothing. His 1953 memoir, "Call Me Lucky," upholds the blithe facade. He seemed trapped in it. Then, in 1983, six years after Crosby's death, his oldest son, Gary, wrote his own book, "Going My Own Way" (with Ross Firestone). In it, he portrays the singer as a monstrous disciplinarian for whom beatings and belittlement were the answers to every filial problem. Gary had become an alcoholic; later in life, two of his brothers, Lindsay and Dennis, shot themselves in the head. Not everyone was surprised. Many who had known Crosby remembered him as cold. In his last television appearances he stares out glumly with eyes of stone, perhaps weary of the role he'd had to play for 40 years. All this is a biographer's feast. But with a faded titan like Crosby, should one aim for a single, reader-friendly volume that might attract more than just die-hard fans Or do the achievements demand a multivolume magnum opus, such as John Richardson is writing on Picasso and Robert Caro on Lyndon B. Johnson And if a writer is enraptured enough to go that route, what to do when there's lots of personal unpleasantness to address Crosby's biographer Gary Giddins had choices to make. A formidable scholar of jazz and popular song, Giddins is certainly the man for the job. He spent 30 years as a Village Voice columnist. His journalism and his books about Charlie Parker and Louis Armstrong have won him scores of awards. In 2001 he released the 700-plus-page "Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams - The Early Years, 1903-1940." Now comes the comparably sized "Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star - The War Years, 19401946." It's easy to see why Volume 2 took him so long. As before, Giddins researched a mountain of material to the max, and he lays his findings out with impressive clarity. At the start of the book, Crosby, 37, is America's greatest star, a "national security blanket" whose role is about to grow as war approaches. Crosby's weekly radio series, "Kraft Music Hall," had made his voice as welcome in the American living room as Franklin Roosevelt's. Once war was declared, the star took to the road to entertain the troops. The "Road" movies, his series of slapstick travelogues with Bob Hope, provided goofy escapist fun for the folks back home. In contrast, Crosby's Oscar-winning portrayal of warm, wise Father O'Malley gave the Catholic Church its best P.R. He tended his image carefully. "My private life is just like the private life of any other middle-class American family," he declared. Crosby's wife was Dixie Lee, a winsome songbird who had traded her career (and her peroxide-blond hair) for motherhood. On the air, Crosby depicted their four sons as adorable scamps. In truth, Dixie was a hopeless and nasty drunk, while Crosby, aided by his wife, doled out harsh corporal punishment to keep the boys in line. Gary had it the worst; aside from the beatings, his father humiliated him for a perceived weight problem, calling him Lardass and Bucket Butt. "Bing's attempt to eradicate a sense of specialness and privilege in his sons," as Giddins terms it, was undercut by the fact that they were Hollywood kids, trotted out as needed for show. Giddins guides us past these minefields in brisk, lucid prose, as smoothly controlled as a Crosby performance. His scholarship and thoroughness earn the highest marks. But Crosby's inner life is left mostly to the imagination. Perhaps few people understood it; he seems to have rarely dropped his mask, except to family. Giddins notes, but just in passing, "the undertow of loss and fear, the threat of unremitting loneliness" in many of Crosby's song selections. Mary Martin, his co-star in the 1940 film "Rhythm on the River," recalled Crosby as "absolutely terrified of any love scenes, any closeups, any kissing." According to the family friend Jean Stevens, Crosby had "no way to show his affection at all, never hugging the children for fear of spoiling them." But the why is unexplored. One can only imagine how Crosby felt when he visited Cardinal Francis Spellman to ask for counsel: He was thinking of divorcing Dixie and marrying the actress Joan Caulfield, with whom he was having an affair. "Bing," the cardinal warned, "you are Father O'Malley, and under no circumstances can Father O'Malley get a divorce." Such material is moving, but there's not much of it. Giddins seems more comfortable examining the career. He shines in his discussion of minstrelsy in film and its garish presence in the Crosby movie "Dixie." The perils and drudgery of U.S.O. touring come to life. And Giddins tells us a lot about how Crosby and the director Leo McCarey jointly fashioned the Crosby-like character of O'Malley. But the immensity of detail can be overwhelming. Pages and pages of historical context; sprawling lists of figures, song titles and names; letters quoted in near-entirety - all of this invites skimming. How many more volumes would Giddins need to cover Crosby's remaining 31 years They include the singer's entire television career, about 20 more films (including three of his best-remembered ones, "The Country Girl," "White Christmas" and "High Society"); a more serene second marriage and family life; and his final concert years, when it was just Bing, face to face with his audience. As the work thins out and the frail humanity emerges, Giddins may face his greatest challenge. JAMES GAVIN has written biographies of Chet Baker, Lena Horne and Peggy Lee. He is working on a biography of George Michael With calm reassurance, Crosby shepherded America through the Depression and World War II.


Library Journal Review

In this second installment of a projected three-volume biography, author and former Village Voice columnist Giddins begins right where he left off 17 years ago with Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams-The Early Years, 1903-1940), with Crosby (1903-77) entering the greatest period of his career. It's likely, and unfortunate, that for many people, Crosby's legacy could be encapsulated into a mere handful of songs and films, so the attention Giddins brings not only to his tremendous career but also to the typically unheralded advances in recording technology, of which Crosby played a vital role, is long overdue. Crosby's extensive work with the United Service Organization during World War II and, most important, his seemingly countless radio broadcasts increased his popularity across the globe and strengthened the resolve of the Allied cause at home. VERDICT As this could be considered the first proper biography of Crosby, general readers might have been better served with a single volume. However, its merits and the skill of Giddins's writing are unassailable, and all libraries and fans of Crosby should add this to their collection.-Peter Thornell, Hingham P.L., MA © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Introductionp. 3
Preludep. 4
Part 1 Time Out
1 Meanwhilep. 11
2 Independencep. 32
3 Ghostsp. 49
4 Prewar Air Warp. 62
5 Right All the Wayp. 89
6 Coventryp. 113
7 South America, Take It Awayp. 137
8 Happy Holidayp. 152
Part 2 Metamorphosis
9 Keep Away from Eunuchsp. 171
10 Caravanp. 190
11 Friendsp. 210
12 Home Firesp. 233
13 Divertissementp. 261
14 Just an Old Cowhandp. 277
15 The Leo McCarey Wayp. 308
16 Padresp. 322
17 Swinging on a Starp. 343
18 Put It There, Palp. 373
Part 3 Der Bingle
19 Heer Shpreekht Bing CROS-byp. 409
20 Somewhere in Francep. 433
21 A Little Touch of Harry in the Dayp. 468
22 Dial O for O'Malleyp. 487
23 Nothing but Bluebirdsp. 513
24 A Long, Long Timep. 541
Bing Crosby Wartime Discographyp. 583
Bing Crosby Wartime Filmographyp. 595
Notes and Sourcesp. 599
Interviews and Bibliographyp. 663
Acknowledgmentsp. 683
Indexp. 691