Tuesday, May 04, 2004

IT IS A LOVELY THING, ISN'T IT?: We're a couple of days late, but even so, we thought we should mention that - if he wasn't dead - Bing Crosby would have been 100 last Sunday. That's if you believe his gravestone; actually, Crosby would have been 101, because his brother, while managing him, fudged his birthdate to make him seem younger. Even Bing's autobiography cites his birthdate as May 2nd 1904, and although brother Everett thought Bing was born in 1901 and was trying to shave three years off his age, the only documentary evidence - birth announcements in local papers - pegs his birthday as being May 3rd 1903. But while facts are sacred, the Crosby family wanted to maintain the myth of the May 2nd, 1904, and so that's the one we're going with.

What's not disputed is somewhere at the start of the last century, a baby was born Harry Lillis in Spokane, Washington State. Crosby started out as a singer with the Paul Whiteman band but was let go (for reasons usually given as unlikely sounding "peccadilloes.") Crosby quickly took to the developing entertainment industry, carving out a career that crossed between making records, doing radio shows and making movies - he was like the Minnie Driver of his day. Unkeen on doing live performance on air, Crosby was an early advocate of pre-recording shows and it's claimed that he was the main reason the radio industry developed the use of magnetic tape - so, when home taping was killing music, it was Uncle Bing who'd been the godfather. He's also credited with hastening the development of video recording, when he transferred his show to television in 1964.

Bing's White Christmas is usually thought of as being the first million-selling single in music history, and trapeziod analysis of figures suggests that he might have been the most popular figure in the twentieth century, helped by his sixty films (twice the number Elvis made, and let's be honest, Presley wasn't that choosy about what he'd appear in) and weeks on the Billboard chart (More than The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Madonna, The Beatles and Elvis added together). He also found the time to help flog Shell petrol, at a time when Shell had oil reserves to sell, and to maintain a fairly impressive golf handicap.

It was golf that finally did for him; he collapsed and died on a course in 1977. Bing had played his last gig at the Brighton Centre - curiously, also the venue for the final date by The Jam.


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