Tuesday, June 20, 2006


"I learnt so much working with Bing. He was frightening! He had so much power."

- Les Paul

Rox and I have a disagreement over Bing Crosby. According to his son's biography, Bing was not only a strict father, but he was an abusive shit as well. Whether or not that is true, how many other artists whose work is considered great fall into that category? And this is where I part with Rox because I think Bing's work was great.

Sure, Sinatra replaced Bing as the great crooner of the day. A Warner Brother's cartoon featuring Porky Pig as a farmer and "Bing" and "Sinatra" as crooning roosters handily pointed out that Sinatra was a looker. But, I would argue that Sinatra was just that - a looker. Bing certainly didn't have that kind of charisma, but Bing was a better crooner and a better singer. Sinatra, in fact, turned away from being a crooner.

Bing Crosby had one of the great voices of his era. He could sing the pop standards, croon, and the man could swing if he wanted to do so. Sure, his duet with David Bowie on Little Drummer Boy might make some people cringe (neither person's performance was particularly good), but his version of White Christmas is a classic.

Want another classic? Check out Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings. Recorded in two sessions with no rehearsal, Bing walked into the studio and asked Bregman what he was looking for in the performance then turned out a hard swinging, orchestrated album. This was Bing moving into Sinatra's territory. By this point in his career, Sinatra had renounced his early crooning style and moved into his more famous Dorsey influenced sticatto style. Bing, on the other paw, retained his trademark laid back persona. On this album, Bregman's arrangements are bright and brassy. One might think that they'd overpower Bing's vocals (Bing worried about it as well), but for every spark that Bregman's arrangements throw at him, Bing holds his own and takes it in stride. The result is an album that highlights both Bregman's orchestrations and Crosby's ability to adapt his style to any situation. An amazing record.

Sinatra may be loved and respected (and rightfully so), but I'd venture that without Bing Crosby's trailblazing efforts Sinatra wouldn't have had a career. Before Sinatra came along, Bing Crosby had done jazz, had developed the crooning style, and had been on radio and in movies. As Les Paul notes in the quote above, Bing was the foundation. Sinatra took that foundation into new and exciting areas, but Bing was his teacher.

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