Yesterday, May 3, would have been Bing Crosby’s birthday. He doesn’t need to be defended, re-assessed, or re-evaluated, but it’s always a pleasure to remember his singing: his passionate ease, his swing, his beautiful dramatic sense. I first fell in love with his voice in my childhood and it continues to thrill me. Here are two (really, three) examples of how wonderfully he sang in the Thirties — and the lovely songs he was given, the first by Sam Coslow and Arthur Johnston, the second by Al Dubin and Harry Warren.
Here is a clip from the film. Bing’s acting is broad, reminiscent of his Mack Sennett days, but it could also be the way he was directed: listen to the voice:
and the issued recording, its subtleties showing that he knew how to improvise:
Here’s I’VE GOT TO SING A TORCH SONG, where Bing’s passionate delivery might make you forget the simple scalar quality of the melody line:
The question of “influence” is always slippery, unless A has written a letter that she is listening to the newest record by B and is impressed by it. Those two songs were in the air, on sheet music, on the radio — this was popular music — so although I feel that Bing had a powerful influence on instrumentalists, I can’t prove it. However, I offer these two instrumental versions — each a beautiful creation — to suggest that perhaps the most famous jazz players were listening deeply to Bing. (We know Louis did.) It gives me an excuse to share, without ideology, glorious rhapsodies.
That’s Hawk with a small group from the Fletcher Henderson band (Red Allen, J. C. Higginbotham, Hilton Jefferson, Horace Henderson, Bernard Addison, John Kirby, Walter Johnson); here he is as star soloist with the full orchestra, with brother Horace on piano, who may have done the arrangement:
Gorgeous music. Sweet, hot, White, Black — who cares? Just gorgeous.
May your happiness increase!