Bing Crosby Overview (02:00)
The first multimedia entertainer paved the way for modern singers. Considered one of the most important voices of the 20th century, his accomplishments have been overlooked; today he is mainly known for “White Christmas.”
Unique Singing Style (01:49)
Entertainer Michael Feinstein and singer Tony Bennett discuss Crosby's use of phrasing to customize songs.
Entertainment Beginnings (02:39)
Born in 1903 to an Irish family, Crosby was passionate about sports and vaudeville. His father Harry exposed him to popular songs, and he joined Al Rinker's band as a drummer. In 1925, they traveled to Los Angeles to play in clubs.
Rhythm Boys (03:14)
Crosby recalls being recruited by bandleader Paul Whiteman. He and Rinker formed a trio with Harry Barris; their jazz-pop fusion brought them national fame. As they enjoyed the high life, they became irresponsible and parted ways with Whiteman.
First Marriage (02:14)
Actress Dixie Lee gave up her career to marry Crosby. He continued drinking and being irresponsible; she became an alcoholic. They had four sons and she retreated from public life.
Ahead of the Music Curve (02:21)
The Rhythm Boys disbanded after Crosby's first solo album. Experts compare his singing style to that of Rudy Vallee and Al Jolson. The microphone allowed him to develop an intimate, sophisticated vocal technique.
National Radio Star (02:06)
By 1935, two thirds of American homes had radios. Crosby signed a contract with CBS; hear him sing "Just One More Chance" on the debut broadcast that increased his fame.
Decca Records Career (03:28)
Crosby dominated the air waves for 31 years. Producer Jack Kapp started a record label with Crosby as his focus. They produced 600 singles in diverse genres, homogenizing pop music. Hear them argue in a 1935 studio recording.
Paramount Studios Contract (02:04)
Crosby's singing and comic timing provided onscreen talent. His unpresumptuous persona appealed during the Depression, and fans didn't begrudge his Hollywood lifestyle.
Vaudeville Cinema (03:17)
Despite having completed 23 films, Crosby became difficult to cast by 1940. Learn about his comedy partnership with Bob Hope that prolonged his success at Paramount.
Successful Comedy Partnership (03:09)
Hope and Crosby starred in "Road" movies parodying Hollywood. They spent time together in the public eye, but kept separate private lives. Experts discuss their fake feud that lasted 35 years.
Kraft Music Hall (03:07)
Fifty million listeners tuned in weekly to Crosby’s NBC show. He used his fame to support struggling entertainers such as Judy Garland after she was fired from MGM; hear them perform a duet on the show.
"White Christmas" Anthem (04:00)
Irving Berlin predicted "Be Careful, It's My Heart" would be the hit from "Holiday Inn." Experts discuss why "White Christmas" became iconic. Crosby recalls performing it for troops during World War II.
Christmas Man (02:12)
"White Christmas" secularized Christmas and remains the best selling record of all time. Crosby was voted the top G.I. morale booster during the war. Experts discuss how he taught Americans to enjoy leisure activities such as golf.
Tape Recording Technology (01:39)
Crosby proposed recording his daily NBC shows on transcription disks. The broadcaster refused; he sued and broke his contract. He signed to ABC and invested in the new technology—paving the way for prerecorded media.
Pop Music Challenger (03:07)
Despite press reports of a rivalry with newcomer Frank Sinatra, Crosby was secure in his career. Sinatra made use of accompaniments and began outselling Crosby in the early '60s; view them singing together in "High Society."
"Going My Way" Gamble (03:33)
Crosby reflects on taking a controversial role as a priest in "Going My Way." He won an Academy Award for best actor, and was encouraged to pursue other films.
Family Struggles (03:50)
Crosby became an American icon in the '40s. However, his marriage to Dixie was failing; two of their children were born with fetal alcohol syndrome. His son Gary's memoir revealed he was disciplinarian father and seldom praised his children.
Family Loss (03:42)
Although Crosby was candid about his failures as a father, fans only saw his public persona. He tried unsuccessfully to treat Dixie's alcoholism. In 1952, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and died later that year; the press flocked to her funeral.
Crosby Boys (03:35)
Bing's sons formed a quartet. Their lives were characterized by alcoholism and instability. Mary expresses anger at Gary's memoir that tarnished their father’s reputation. Gary and Lindsay committed suicide; Dennis and Phillip died of natural causes.
"White Christmas" (Film) (02:45)
After Dixie's death, Crosby considered abandoning his career. Learn about his partnership with Rosemary Clooney that began with the 1954 film.
"The Country Girl" (02:11)
After having been typecast, Crosby took a role as an alcoholic actor opposite Grace Kelly. He discusses intense rehearsals and filming sessions; view a clip of "The Country Girl."
"High Society" (02:50)
Crosby starred with Kelly, Sinatra and Louis Armstrong in "High Society." Experts discuss his admiration of Armstrong and open mindedness about drugs, race, and sexuality.
Second Marriage (03:25)
Kathryn Grant recalls her first date with Crosby. Despite media gossip about their age difference, they married in 1957 and had three children. She encouraged him to be physically affectionate with them.
Aging Pop Icon (03:08)
Crosby brought his family with him on tours. By the '60s, he was still loved but was increasingly seen as grandfatherly. He believed television meant career suicide; hear about his financial challenges.
Bing Crosby Specials (02:22)
As radio became less popular and film roles decreased, Crosby embraced television. View him performing with Ella Fitzgerald, Maurice Chevalier, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin.
Christmas Specials (02:39)
From the late '50s to the early '70s, Crosby appeared on television specials with his family and with celebrities. View a duet with David Bowie.
Crosby found new vocal depths in the '70s. After an accident at his 50th anniversary celebration, he embarked on a European tour in 1977, during which he died of a heart attack after a golf game in Spain.
The Crosby family had an intimate funeral, according to Bing's wishes. Experts talk about his timelessness and contribution to American music.
Credits: Bing Crosby: Rediscovered (02:23)
Credits: Bing Crosby: Rediscovered
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