Thursday, February 21, 2013
BING LEFT ME WANTING MORE
The longer I am a Bing Crosby fan, the more this seems to be true. As I learn more about Bing's career--his recordings, movies, and contributions to broadcasting and culture--I not only want to keep listening, watching, and learning, I also and especially wish he could have been with us longer.
Bing died the same year Elvis did, Elvis who was one of those rock icons who shook up popular music threatening and displacing artists singing in styles popular in the 20s to mid-50s, but Elvis did not leave me wanting more. By the time I was in high school (late 60s) his career seemed mostly over and to put it kindly, with few exceptions, his movies were poor. But I felt a profound loss at the news that Bing died. At that time, really all I knew about Bing was his most popular movies, playing occasionally on TV, his occasional TV specials and other appearances I'd watched growing up, and a couple dozen of his 78s, part of a collection I expanded after restoring an old wind-up Victrola about my second year of high school.
Now, when I have most of his LPs and several LP and CD compilations of his work, as well as several of his movies on VHS and DVD, and when I have read much more about him, I can't help wishing he could have given us more songs, more movies (musicals and dramas and even thrillers), more broadcast appearances of many kinds, and even more Christmas specials and song recordings. I will hear some song from the decades since he died and think, "Bing could have done a great version of that one!" I will hear Tony Bennett doing more duet recordings and recall what a master of the duet Bing was, not only from films but from so many duets with guests appearing on his decades of radio shows! Had Bing been around another decade or more, how many fascinating and memorable duet collaborations might he have given us?
And then, when I think of "The Country Girl," "Stagecoach," and "Dr. Cook's Garden" (a still from which is now my computer wallpaper), I sometimes wonder if we only began to know Bing's potential range as an actor. It boggles my mind to imagine the sorts of non-singing dramatic roles, humorous character-actor roles, and even horror or sci-fi roles those three films begin to suggest might have been possible in a longer Crosby film career. Then, too, now when name film actors have started to disappear from the screen in droves to do cartoon character voice-over roles for Pixar and other studios, Bing might have excelled far beyond what he gave us in that area as well...had he stayed with us a dozen or so more years.
Then, also, I can't forget what was happening in Bing's recording collaborations with Ken Barnes at the time Bing died. To my ears, they were getting better and better. Where might that musical road have led with more time?
There is a maxim about how a great performer knows to leave the stage while the audience still wants more (rather than after they've had quite enough I suppose), but I rather think that Bing could have given us several more marvelous years, and I personally would have still wanted more, because who knows how much more potential and range those years might have begun to reveal. On the other hand, I don't want to sound ungrateful. I am very thankful for all the enjoyment Bing has given the world, me included. I am also grateful to the longer-term and more dedicated Crosby fans who have done so much to keep his legacy alive, who also have also done so much for so long to teach and foster newer and evolving fans like me...