- 1903-05-03 - 1977-10-14
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby Jr. was an American singer, actor, and entrepreneur who remains one of the best-selling recording artists of all time. Crosby's career spanned almost 50 years, and in that time he recorded almost 400 charting singles, among which 41 reached #1—actually 43, since “White Christmas” reached #1 in 1945 and 1947 as well as 1942 (its original release). His most common recording partners were the Andrews Sisters, and onscreen he appeared in multiple films with Bob Hope.
Hope was born in Spokane, Washington. He got his famous nickname, Bing, at about age 7, from a parody hillbilly newsletter in the local paper. Although he graduated from high school and attended Gonzaga University, he never graduated. Instead, he sang in a series of singing groups and bands through the early 1920s until he and friend Al Rinker decided to try their fortunes in Los Angeles in 1925. In 1926, both were hired to sing with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Touring with the band and his own singing group, The Rhythm Boys, cemented Crosby's reputation and eventually led to a solo recording contract with Brunswick and a weekly radio show with CBS. Crosby made his national broadcast debut in September 1931. Fame quickly followed.
Crosby would appear in his first full-length film, "The Big Broadcast", in 1932. He signed a recording contract with the brand-new company Decca, who he would remain with for much of his career, in 1934. In 1936 he became the host of NBC's "Kraft Music Hall", a post he would hold for the next decade. Crosby was one of the first singers to take advantage of the invention of the microphone, which enabled him to "croon" instead of "belt" and set the musical standard for the stars that followed him: Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin, among many others. As with many other singers of the era, Crosby toured extensively entertaining American troops during World War II. In 1942, Crosby starred in the movie "Holiday Inn" and recorded the song that still stands as the best-selling single of all time: "White Christmas". The song was issued and reissued so many times that Crosby had to rerecord it in 1947, as the original master had been damaged from repeated additional pressings.
In the 1950s and '60s Crosby continued to record and act, and appeared on nearly all of the television music variety programs of the era. He also changed the face of both radio and television broadcasting by, first in one medium and then the other, insisting on being able to pre-record his performances at times when each medium was typically performed live. As an avid investor in recording technology, Crosby appreciated and understood the value of being able to edit his performances to improve their quality. He pushed his contract studios to invest in the latest sound equipment and recording technology, particularly magnetic tape recorders, and his production studio pioneered many editing techniques that would be come industry standards.
Crosby died suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 74.