Sunday, October 21, 2012
THE CROSBY LEGACY
His singing, of course, was central to understanding his appeal. In addition to virtually defining the crooning tradition, he was widely held to be a premier jazz interpreter. Earl Orkin would write that Bing Crosby was one of the greatest of all jazz singers. Although he could and often did sing just about anything, he grew up in the world of Bix Beiderbecke and Hoagy Carmichael, and jazz was always what he loved best. (Unlike Sinatra, for instance, he always phrased the music, not the words.) Short of Louis Armstrong or Billie Holiday perhaps, there is no better role-model for an aspiring jazz singer that Bing.
Osterholm attempted to ascertain Crosby’s importance as a singer in commercial terms. Conceding for a moment that Elvis Presley, who died two months before Bing, sold 500 million records since 1954, and that Bing sold only 400 million since 1926, we could, for a simple method, compare relative sales in relation to population by comparing the nation’s population at the mid-points of their careers. Adjusting Presley’s sales by the audience in Crosby’s time, it would be about 365 million, Crosby’s sales would be 508 million in Presley’s time. Moreover, in the 1930s, when Bing was first popular, record sales were very low because of the Depression, and many people also maintain that Bing has actually sold more than 500 million records.
This success was instrumental in enabling Crosby to assume a larger than life persona. According to Thompson, Bing Crosby is probably the most-loved character in the world apart from the creations of Walt Disney. For a half century he has dispensed much joy and much entertainment for the benefit of millions who were never ever to meet him but felt that they knew him and in him had a friend. A colossal, enveloping warmth of affection has justly come his way through the years. Even if the image of the casual, lazy pipe-smoking crooner was not completely true it would not matter. He was Bing, Mr. Family Man, Mr. Clean.