American crooner and actor (1904-1977). Probably one of the most popular celebrities prior to the 1950s, in radio, TV, and movies. Born Harry Lillis Crosby in Tacoma, Washington, he was nicknamed "Bing" or "Bingo" after one of his favorite comic strips. He put together a vocal trio called the Rhythm Boys with some friends at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Bing had a beautiful, mellow baritone voice that both men and women enjoyed listening to and that sounded really good both in person and on the radio. When the Rhythm Boys got fairly popular and appeared in the film "The King of Jazz" in 1930, Crosby left the group.

Bing sang just about everything in a very laidback, swingy manner. He sang jazz, pop, show tunes, hymns, ballads, and much more. His persona was very easygoing and stylish -- fatherly without seeming like a hardass. And he was able to communicate that style both through the radio and onto film.

He appeared in several publicity shorts, singing to actress Mary Pickford. Bing got signed to a bunch of short films by Mack Sennett. Though the producers considered taping his ears to his head so they wouldn't look so big, Crosby was a natural in front of the camera, and his popularity kept growing. Crosby appeared in his first feature film in 1932 -- "The Big Broadcast", the first in a long string of successful movies.

In 1940, Crosby made "The Road to Singapore" -- his first movie with Bob Hope. The movie was extremely successful, leading to a series of "Road" films, featuring Crosby, Hope, and co-star Dorothy Lamour. A few years later, Crosby starred in "Holiday Inn" with Fred Astaire, and the crooner's version of "White Christmas" was, until Michael Jackson's "Thriller" came along, the best-selling album in history. Bing won an Oscar for his role as Father O'Malley in 1944's "Going My Way" and got another nomination a year later for the sequel "The Bells of St. Mary's". He received another Academy Award nomination in 1954 when he played an alcoholic singer in "The Country Girl" in 1954. Most of his remaining musicals were undistinguished, though "White Christmas" was a hit at the box office, and "High Society" (with Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Grace Kelly) remains a lot of fun to watch.

Crosby's popularity began to diminish with the rise of rock and roll -- his last major hit album was "Now Is the Hour" in 1948. Afterwards, he experimented with his music a little more, moving away from pop music and toward collaborations and even hot jazz, earning some of his greatest critical acclaim in years. Bing also starred in a sitcom ("The Bing Crosby Show") in 1964-65 and financed research into the development of videotape. He died in 1977 of a heart attack in Madrid, Spain.

Research dug up on the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) and the All Music Guide (www.allmusic.com)

I have a wide range of music that I enjoy, and one of my favorite performers was the legendary Bing Crosby. I originally enjoyed his work in such films as The Bells of Saint Mary’s, and I grew to enjoy his unique singing style.

Bing was born Harry Crosby in 1903. His unique nickname, Bing, was picked up from a comic strip he loved in the Tacoma local papers. He had a far ranging career spanning many decades. His original singing career started in high school, where he sang with a jazz band. When he went to college, he kept up his hobby, eventually teaming up with a chap named Al Rinker. They were quite popular, to the point where they decided to try to make a career out of jazz singing. They left college and went into show business.

Eventually, they found work with another gent named Harry Barris, who teamed up to form The Rhythm Boys. Paul Whiteman, a famous music entertainer producer, signed them, and The Rhythm Boys became a big hit. They recorded such tunes as Mississippi Mud and eventually appeared in a 1930 movie called The King of Jazz, which gave Bing the acting bug.

As technology improved, singers could begin to sing without straining their voices to be heard in the back of music halls. Bing developed a unique, laid-back style that was eventually the standard for crooning, or singing as though you were singing to one individual. He had a very good ear for music, and he had a good idea of what the audience wanted.

One problem that songwriters had with Bing is that he sang the song the way he wanted it to be sung, not according to how the music was written. Eventually, many of his top hits were so associated with Bing’s unique style that the song became almost useless for other singers to cover.

His affinity for jazz had him rubbing shoulders with the great musicians of the jazz era, such as Louis Armstrong and Harry and James Dorsey. This brought him to the forefront of the American popular music scene. It has been said that Bing’s popularity was due to his singing style, which made it seem that almost anyone could sing and croon like him.

Bing sold millions of records after he became a star. Even today, the top selling single 45rpm record is Bing’s rendition of White Christmas. Other major hits were Pennies From Heaven, Love In Bloom and How Deep Is The Ocean.

Bing branched out into some character acting, scoring major success with his best friend, the late Bob Hope, in the Road movies. Thanks to his years of jazz singing, Bing had a great sense of timing and was a natural straight man to Hope’s funny guy routines. His character actor roles included such classic films as White Christmas and Going My Way.

When Bing and Bob were not on a stage, they were out working on their other passion, golfing. Bing tragically died while playing a round of golf in Madrid, Spain in 1977. When Bob Hope heard of the death of his best friend, he cancelled a show at Radio City Music Hall – the first time Bob had ever cancelled a show.

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