Public Image, Private Life of a Legend Bing Crosby's Early Years Chronicled

Article excerpt

Title: Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams 1903-1940

Author: Gary Giddins

Data: Little Brown, 720 pages, $30

Review by John Smyntek

Why read a long book about Bing Crosby? And especially one that covers the portion of his life that most would agree was eclipsed by the glory of his later years?

One answer lies on Page 246 of Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams: "Bing would continue to average sixteen charted singles per year through 1950, peaking in 1939 with 27 (a feat broken only by the Beatles in 1964 with 30), never falling below double digits until 1951, when he placed nine singles in the top 25. This unparalleled 25-year accomplishment is not likely ever to be equaled."

Take that, Eminem.

Another lies on Page 266: "Crosby was a man whom the audience thought it knew almost as well as a member of the family but who was, in fact, known to very few. Cool and efficient in his private manner, he was . . . exceptionally intimate when he sang. . . . We liked his easiness, the intelligence behind his interpretation of the lyrics. Everything he did depended upon intelligence and he certainly had that."

The 20th century is expired no matter how you count the years, and as the generations pass, there is the possibility that the mark made by Harry Lillis Crosby will be reduced to a footnote. Hence, 720 pages about Crosby might turn out to be not enough.

Author Gary Giddins gives an unusually detailed look at a life that was thought to be highly public but that was also artfully concealed and hence private.

Born in Spokane, Wash., of Irish lineage, the young Crosby was a mixture of rapscallion and altar boy. …