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BING CROSBY by Gary Giddins Kirkus Star


Swinging on a Star: The War Years, 1940-1946

by Gary Giddins

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-316-88792-2
Publisher: Little, Brown

The second volume of a multipart biography of Bing Crosby (1903-1977), concentrating on his remarkable achievements during the war years.

In a long career, the years 1940-1946 represent the most lucrative period for Crosby as a pre-eminent multimedia talent. Having already established fame as a top-selling recording artist, his work on film would reach unprecedented box office success and critical heights. At the same time, he continued as a leading radio star on the popular Kraft Music Hall. Noted jazz critic Giddins (Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker, 2013, etc.), a winner of a Peabody and National Book Critics Circle Award, among others, focuses much of the narrative on Crosby’s notable career accomplishments, recounting a tireless work and travel schedule to rival any artist. In addition to chronicling Crosby’s generous efforts on behalf of the enlisted men during the war that included several USO tours, the author provides extensive details on the production of each of Crosby’s films, radio broadcasts, and recording sessions, including his contributions as a businessman and entrepreneur in the further expansion of these industries. The author doesn’t shy away from his subject’s personal limitations and his often remote behavior within his family, exploring his long and often troubled first marriage to former actress and nightclub singer, Dixie Lee. Giddins also examines Crosby’s harsh disciplinary approach to raising his four sons from his marriage to Lee. Later to be recounted in Going My Own Way, son Gary’s memoir, this aspect of the artist’s life would somewhat tarnish his reputation among contemporary audiences. Throughout the book, the author impressively maintains a balanced view of Crosby’s complex character: an affable, hardworking performer admired by his peers and audience but also a man with values and ideas representative of his generation and piously Catholic upbringing. Ultimately, the author establishes Crosby’s relevancy as an indisputable talent worth fair consideration from future generations.

A deeply researched and thoroughly engrossing biography that confirms Crosby’s essential role in the history of American music and film during a crucial period of the 20th century.