"The best thing to happen to Bing Crosby since Bob Hope," (WSJ) Gary Giddins presents the second volume of his masterful multi-part biography.
Bing Crosby dominated American popular culture in a way that few artists ever have. From the dizzy era of Prohibition through the dark days of the Second World War, he was a desperate nation's most beloved entertainer. But he was more than just a charismatic crooner: Bing Crosby redefined the very foundations of modern music, from the way it was recorded to the way it was orchestrated and performed.
In this much-anticipated follow-up to the universally acclaimed first volume, NBCC Winner and preeminent cultural critic Gary Giddins now focuses on Crosby's most memorable period, the war years and the origin story of White Christmas. Set against the backdrop of a Europe on the brink of collapse, this groundbreaking work traces Crosby's skyrocketing career as he fully inhabits a new era of American entertainment and culture. While he would go on to reshape both popular music and cinema more comprehensively than any other artist, Crosby's legacy would be forever intertwined with his impact on the home front, a unifying voice for a nation at war. Over a decade in the making and drawing on hundreds of interviews and unprecedented access to numerous archives, Giddins brings Bing Crosby, his work, and his world to vivid life -- firmly reclaiming Crosby's central role in American cultural history.
The legendary crooner segues from edgy jazz singer to national paterfamilias in the second volume of Giddins's scintillating biography. Jazz journalist and scholar Giddins (Satchmo) revisits the WWII era, when Bing Crosby was at the height of his popularity with a radio show, chart-topping records like "White Christmas" (still the world's all-time bestselling single), a string of hit movies from the cutup comedy Road to Morocco to his classic turn as Father O'Malley in Going My Way. He also performed at innumerable USO gigs for the troops, including a show on the frontline during which his audience was called away to repel a German attack. He became, Giddins argues, a new paradigm of American masculinity: manly, down-to-earth, easygoing, unflappable, and a comfortably reassuring pillar of faith and family in chaotic times. (Crosby hid the dysfunctions in his own family, including his wife's alcoholism and depression and his own harsh parenting style, which featured occasional beatings of his sons with a metal-studded leather belt.) Giddins packs exhaustive research and detail into his sprawling narrative while keeping the prose relaxed and vivid, and sprinkles in shrewd critical assessments of Crosby's music and films. Crosby emerges as an aloof, cool cat, and Giddins's engrossing show-biz bio richly recreates the popular culture he helped define.