An Atlantic Monthly Best Book of 2001.
Synopses & Reviews
Bing Crosby dominated American popular culture as no one ever has. From the dizzy era of Prohibition through the ark days of the Depression and the Second World War, he was the world's most beloved entertainer. But he was much more than that: Bing Crosby was a musical innovator who created the style of modern pop singing, bringing a dramatic intimacy to records, radio, and movies. He became a national icon whose unequivocal self-assurance and average-guy decency reflected the aspirations and fears of the American people.
In the first half of the twentieth century, Crosby was the king of popular culture. He was the number one movie attraction and the host of radio's most popular musical program. As a singer, Crosby still reigns supreme: he holds the records for the most number one singles, the most singles to hit the charts, and the most popular song ("White Christmas") of all time. A pioneering jazz vocalist, Crosby lent his style to every kind of pop music, from Tin Pan Alley, spiritual songs, and blues to western ballads, Hawaiian reveries, and Irish lullabies. With his nonpareil mastery of the microphone, he led the way in establishing American pop as modern, swinging, and cool.
In his compelling biography, Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, the eminent cultural critic Gary Giddins takes us on the remarkable journey that brought a provincial young law student form Spokane, Washington, to the pinnacle of the entertainment world. Giddins chronicles Crosby's rise from the college minstrel shows through vaudeville; from Paul Whiteman's orchestra to matchless success in Hollywood; from his courtship of the beautiful ad tragic Dixie Lee to his triumphs as the sportsman who created the first celebrity pro-am golf tournament and helped build the Del Mar racetrack. Written with he critical insight and stylistic mastery readers have come to expect from Giddins, this definitive biography rescues Crosby from mythographers and debunkers alike. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and unprecedented access to numerous archives, Giddins dramatizes the ascension of pop and firmly reclaims Crosby's central role in American cultural history.
"Likely to become both the standard biography of the singer and a model for other show-business lives." Kirkus Reviews
"A perceptive portrait of Crosby as a man, a singer, a radio personality and a budding movie star." Publishers Weekly
"Giddin's lively and perceptive combination of history, biography, and musicology illuminates nothing less than American popular culture in the first four decades of the twentieth century." Atlantic Monthly
Bing Crosby reflected the aspirations and fears of America itself and reinvented himself like no star before him ever had. Published to coincide with the author's extensive participation in Ken Burns' 18-hour PBS documentary Jazz, A Pocketful of Dreams recaptures one of the richest chapters of American history and firmly reclaims Crosby's place in it. Photos.
From Bing Crosby's early days in college minstrel shows and vaudeville, to his first hit recordings, from his 11 year triumph as star of America's most popular radio show, to his first success in Hollywood, Gary Giddins provides a detailed study of the rise of this American star.
In one of the most celebrated biographies of recent years, Giddens traces Bing Crosby's early ascent and reminds readers why Crosby dominated American popular culture as no one else ever has. of photos.