Bing Crosby

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Bing Crosby was born Harry Lillis Crosby in Tacoma, Washington, on May 3, 1903. His family moved to Spokane soon afterward. He was inspired to concentrate on a singing career as a teenager after seeing Al Jolson perform. While attending Gonzaga University to become a lawyer, he begin singing with a local band. Without doubt, he would become the most popular media star of the first half of the 20th century with numerous hit recordings.

Crosby lives on with his “White Christmas” continuing as an annual Christmas hit besides being the all-time best-selling recording for most of the 20th century. He landed more records on the Hit Parade than anyone in history, 368. (Elvis only had 149.) Crosby had more No. 1 hits than anyone, 38. (The Beatles had 24.) He ranked as the No. 1 movie box office draw five consecutive years, 1944-1948. He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar three times, and won it once for Going My Way. He was one of the nation’s biggest radio stars from 1931 to 1954, and produced 3,400 of his own programs.

Since Crosby sold more than 300 million records, it should come as no surprise that some of the most recognizable songs of the 20th century were associated with him. Here are just a few: “Stardust,” “Red Sails in the Sunset”, “Pennies from Heaven”, “I’m an Old Cowhand (From the Rio Grande)”, “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby”, “Pistol Packin’ Mama”, “Swingin’ On a Star”, “Whiffenpoof Song”, “Galway Bay”, “San Antonio Rose”, “McNamara’s Band”, “Blue Hawaii”, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”, “Sail Along, Silv’ry Moon”, “Little Drummer Boy,” “True Love”, his top five hit with Grace Kelly in 1956, and “Around the World” in 1957.

Crosby made 62 movies, not counting cameos and shorts. The best, by critical and popular consensus, was Going My Way, the 1944 story of a down-to-earth young priest. It won the Oscar for Best Picture and Crosby won the Oscar for Best Actor. It was also,at the time, the highest-grossing film in Paramount Pictures history. Crosby received another Oscar nomination for the sequel, The Bells of St. Mary’s. However, some prefer his dark portrayal of an alcoholic singer in 1954’s The Country Girl, with Grace Kelly. He was again nominated for an Oscar. However, Crosby is remembered mostly for his seven "Road" movies with Bob Hope between 1940 and 1962. The best? Probably 1942’s Road to Morocco and 1947’s Road to Rio.

Crosby’s last words: “That was a great game of golf, fellas,” spoken just before he crumpled to the ground with a heart attack, near the 18th green of a golf course in Madrid, Spain, on October 14, 1977. He was 74 years of age.

In 2007 Bing Crosby was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame