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Music / Bing Crosby

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"Everyone knows I'm just a big, good-natured slob."
Bing Crosby, on himself.

Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby Jr. (May 3, 1903 – October 14, 1977) was an American singer and actor whose trademark warm bass-baritone voice made him the best-selling recording artist of the 20th century, having sold over one billion records, tapes, compact discs, and digital downloads the world over. Suffice it to say, that means very few people agreed with his self-assessment of his singing skills.

Crosby started his career in the late 1920s as one of The Rhythm Boys, a vocal trio that accompanied bandleader Paul Whiteman's orchestra. He broke out as a solo singer in the early 1930s, recording several hits for the Brunswick label before starting a long association with Decca Records in 1934. In 1942 he recorded what would become perhaps his most famous legacy: the Irving Berlin song "White Christmas", which stayed at #1 on the charts for over 11 weeks when it was first released, and has remained a perennial Christmas favorite in the United States ever since. In fact, Crosby recorded a great many Christmas Songs over the years, which is primarily how the younger generation is familiar with him. His album Merry Christmas (1945), a Cover Album full of Christmas-themed songs, has sold over 15 million copies worldwide and is the second-best-selling Christmas album of all time, behind Elvis Presley's Elvis' Christmas Album (1957). Other than "White Christmas," Crosby's best-known holiday songs are probably "Do You Hear What I Hear?", released in 1963, and "Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy," an unlikely duet with British rock star David Bowie recorded for a posthumously-aired television special in 1977; the latter tune was also released as a single in 1982, whereupon it became a huge international hit.


Crosby appeared in almost 80 different films over six decades; in the 1940s, he was surpassed as a box-office draw only by Clark Gable and John Wayne. His most famous films include the Road to ... series (in which he teamed with Bob Hope), Going My Way (which earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor), and of course, White Christmas.

Crosby pioneered pre-recorded radio shows, and was an astute businessman. His investment in the Ampex Corporation spurred the development of videotape and he also invested in a little company called Minute Maid. At one time he was part owner of baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates.

Crosby popularized golf and sponsored several early tournaments. He also competed in both the British and American Pro-Amateur Tournaments. He also died of a heart attack shortly after playing a game of golf with some of his friends. Reputedly, his last words before his fatal heart attack were, "That was a great game of golf, fellas."


Not to be confused with Bob Crosby, his youngest brother and a talented singer in his own right. No relation to Cathy Lee Crosby, or David Crosby. Denise Crosby is his granddaughter, however.

Notable recordings:

Notable film roles:

Tropes invoked by his works:

  • The Cameo: In the '40s Crosby became so associated with Bob Hope that he made cameos in Hope films My Favorite Brunette and The Princess and the Pirate.
  • Can't Live With Them, Can't Live Without Them: Happens in several of his movies.
  • Deadpan Snarker: In real life and in many of his movies.
    • According to legend, Crosby was clipping his hedges in his usual ratty garb when a rich woman drove up and mistook him for hired help, asking him how much he was paid. He smiled and said, "The missus lets me sleep with her."
      • This is an old vaudeville routine (and has been told of everyone from Groucho Marx to Lee Trevino to Thurgood Marshall); however, Crosby is all the more likely to have used it, exactly for that reason.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: One of his trademarks. The cover of his album New Tricks (1957) featured an illustration of a basset hound at the microphone in studio, smoking a pipe and donning Crosby's usual trilby hat.
  • Expressive Ears: According to legend record executives were bothered by Crosby's large ears, fearing they would distract the audience from listening to his music. So they tried taping them against his head. Eventually it was decided that it was better to keep them the way they were. Seeing that no audience member ever complained about Crosby's ear length, they were absolutely right.
  • Grave Humor: Not intentionally. The year of birth displayed on his grave is incorrect. (1904 instead of 1903.)
  • Homesickness Hymn: A couple of Christmas-related examples.
    • Composer Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" is about Dreaming of a White Christmas back home instead of in Los Angeles with its sunny weather. Bing's version of the song is the greatest-selling single of all time.
    • "I'll Be Home for Christmas" is about a soldier in World War II singing about wanting to be back home rather than being at war.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Crosby was a favorite target for parody by cartoon artists (particularly for Looney Tunes / Merrie Melodies), appearing, for instance in "Bingo Crosbyana" (1936), "Hollywood Steps Out" (1941), "What's Up, Doc?" (1949), and, many years later, transmogrified into Hugh on Taz-Mania.
    • He was royally pissed at WB for the cartoons "Let It Be Me" and "Bingo Crosbyana", and it's easy to see why. The former portrayed him as a sleazy radio crooner who seduced a naive country girl and then ditched her. The latter portrayed him as a braggart who turned cowardly at the first sign of trouble, then showed up after everything was all over and tried to take credit. He considered those to be personal attacks and tried to sue. For the record, he never objected to portrayals close to his onscreen persona, such as "Hollywood Steps Out".
    • The Parson, an acquaintance of Rev. Lovejoy from The Simpsons, is based on Bing Crosby's Father O'Malley character from Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary's, including the golf.
    • He was also more darkly parodied in Family Guy. Being the Black Comedy it is, most of these gags targeted the allegations of him being an Abusive Parent.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: At the time when Crosby was starting out, convention was that bands didn’t employ singers, who weren’t entirely considered proper musicians; an instrumentalist would just step up when a voice was needed. But Crosby, who had no particular instrumental skills, was hired by bandleader Paul Whiteman for his voice. So he was required to pose with a violin, with rubber strings so he couldn’t make inconvenient noises.
  • The Stoner: Bing was a quite avid smoker of marijuana. Reportedly he started smoking it early in his career, and continued to do so until 1974, where he had a lung operation. His son, Gary, has speculated it might be the cause of his laid-back and easygoing acting style in his films.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Supposedly with Bob Hope.

"He was an average guy who could carry a tune."
— Crosby's epitaph, written by himself.