Bing Crosby

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


By Gary Giddins

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“The best thing to happen to Bing Crosby since Bob Hope,” (WSJ) Gary Giddins presents the second volume of his masterful multi-part biography.

Bing Crosby dominated American popular culture in a way that few artists ever have. From the dizzy era of Prohibition through the dark days of the Second World War, he was a desperate nation’s most beloved entertainer. But he was more than just a charismatic crooner: Bing Crosby redefined the very foundations of modern music, from the way it was recorded to the way it was orchestrated and performed.

In this much-anticipated follow-up to the universally acclaimed first volume, NBCC Winner and preeminent cultural critic Gary Giddins now focuses on Crosby’s most memorable period, the war years and the origin story of White Christmas. Set against the backdrop of a Europe on the brink of collapse, this groundbreaking work traces Crosby’s skyrocketing career as he fully inhabits a new era of American entertainment and culture. While he would go on to reshape both popular music and cinema more comprehensively than any other artist, Crosby’s legacy would be forever intertwined with his impact on the home front, a unifying voice for a nation at war. Over a decade in the making and drawing on hundreds of interviews and unprecedented access to numerous archives, Giddins brings Bing Crosby, his work, and his world to vivid life — firmly reclaiming Crosby’s central role in American cultural history.



Bing Crosby was born Harry Lillis Crosby on May 3, 1903, the fourth of seven siblings, in Tacoma, Washington. Three years later, the family moved inland to Spokane and a two-story house across the way from Gonzaga University. His father, Harry Lowe Crosby, a bookkeeper whose Danish-Anglican family had deep roots in America, almost as far back as the Mayflower, was depicted by his son as a hail-fellow-well-met character who liked to sing and strum a mandolin. His mother, Catherine Helen Crosby (née Harrigan), was a devout Catholic and a hard-line disciplinarian whose Irish ancestors went to Canada in 1831 and gradually moved to the United States and westward to Washington. Bing won his nickname in third grade as a dedicated fan of a syndicated feature, “The Bingville Bugle,” which parodied a hillbilly newspaper in drawings and news flashes. At Gonzaga’s high school and university, he excelled in elocution, Latin, English, history, and Christian doctrine. He held a series of before- and after-school jobs, including altar boy and sweeper at a skid-row flophouse, and he found his passion in sports and entertainment.

Crosby dropped out of Gonzaga in his last year of law school when he began earning money as a performer. He had been scouted by a high school kid, Al Rinker, to play drums in his band, the Musicaladers. He offered to sing, too. They built a dance-hall following, and when the band broke up, Rinker (a pianist) and Crosby found work as a duo. With Al’s sister, the jazz singer Mildred Bailey, beginning her career in Los Angeles, they bought a Model T and drove down the coast. With her encouragement, Bing ditched his drums, and the two men found work on West Coast vaudeville circuits. Betting on a hunch, the formidable Paul Whiteman hired them to work with his orchestra, bringing them to New York, where they flopped until they found a third partner, songwriter Harry Barris, and called themselves the Rhythm Boys. They were a Jazz Age phenomenon, swinging, funny, hard-playing, hard-drinking. Whiteman brought them back to Hollywood to appear in the film King of Jazz. On their own, they triumphed at the Cocoanut Grove, where Bing met his future wife, starlet Dixie Lee, and the fabled Mack Sennett, who in 1931 featured him in a series of two-reelers. That year he was also recruited by CBS to star in a network series, the success of which led to his record-breaking tenancy at New York’s Paramount Theater and the national obsession with a new microphone-savvy style of singing called crooning. At Dixie’s insistence, Crosby stopped drinking. Paramount’s 1932 picture The Big Broadcast launched him as a film actor; NBC’s Kraft Music Hall reinforced his eminence on the air; a handshake agreement with Jack Kapp led to the formation of Decca Records and Crosby’s unrivaled career as a recording artist. He became the voice of the Depression and the recovery. At the start of a new decade, he and Dixie had four sons and a majestic home. He had a new movie partner in the recently imported Broadway comedian Bob Hope. Crosby was rich, powerful, beloved. His life was exemplary. All the fan magazines said so.


Pilgrim’s Progress, 1927–1937

May 1927. From a letter to Bobbe Brox, on tour in Philadelphia with the Brox Sisters, written in New York while Bing Crosby worked with the Paul Whiteman orchestra:

I’m sick of this town, the inhabitants thereof, and the appurtenances thereto. Work day and nite, with no opportunity for any healthy recreation and only able to find amusement in the solace of rum with its subsequent discomforts. I got a strong yen on to get from here, preferably coast work and unless things take an unlooked turn for the better shall gratify said yen.

Business at the club is a bit sad and the same is true of the show. It appears as tho the 1st of June will find both jobs terminated, praise God! And then I believe we go into the Paramount for 10 weeks. Imagine the unalloyed pleasure of 5aday in Midsummer in New York. No golf, no ball games. Odzooks! Tis most disconcerting.

I might run down there next week if I can make it. If you come to town don’t neglect to call me. Hope the surroundings in staid Phillie have quieted down your urge for companionship and revelry.

Lotsa Love


May 1928. Letter to Edgie Hogle, Spokane, written on hotel stationery:

Dear Edgie—

I know that I am away behind in my correspondence with you and must owe you plenty of letters. We have been pretty busy during the last few months and have been jumping in and out of New York with little chance of getting set anywhere so my duties in this respect have fallen into a sad state. However I have received all of your cheery epistles and was indeed glad to hear from you.

This Detroit is probably the boss town of them all with every facility for having a good riotous time at first hand. Right across the river from Canada, but no need to go over there as the spots on this side give plenty of good satisfaction.

I have been setting comfortably on the wagon for some two weeks, but I fear the congenial surroundings here are going to necessitate a temporary descent. I hope it is only temporary. My drinking hitherto has been spasmodic, but when occasion demands, it is usually for a protracted spell. Don’t crack around home tho.…

The Band and ourselves have switched to Columbia Records exclusively, leaving Victor because of a better proposition. The talk in the East and the trend of the stock market seems to indicate that Columbia in a couple years will pass Victor in popularity and sales.

Their new machine has the Victor orthophonic stopped and they are turning out some great recording. As a result of the sudden switch, our last two weeks in New York was plenty feverish grinding out enough records for Columbia to full up the catalogue.…

From here we play Buffalo, then into New York for some more records and jumping to Minneapolis then Chicago, Kansas City etc. There is a possibility I may get home around August if we get a vacation after Chicago. I hope so even if it’s only for a week.

Best wishes to Maudine and your Mother and Sisters. And hello to the gang.

Your friend


c/o P. Whiteman

1560 Broadway

New York City2

February 1929. From a letter to Mrs. H. L. Crosby, Spokane, written on hotel stationery:

Dear Mother—:

I received your letter today, it having been forwarded here from Rochester Syracuse, and am enclosing money order for of a C, which you can split with Dad.

… The [Rhythm Boys] are verily the “stormy petrels” of show business, particularly myself. At present we are in a frightful imbroglio with the Columbia Company. Victor Company, Keith Albee and Whiteman claiming us contractually obligated to each of them.… Pending a satisfactory arrangement we have been working but sporadically and jumping all over the East Coast. Shortly after our return we landed a show which augured very well for us with good parts and a nice salary. But while up in Pennsylvania the agent neglected to close the deal and we returned to find the chance lost. This is but one instance of a dozen similar incidents… the Savoy Hotel in London made overtures for our services and finally made us a highly attractive offer. I found a loophole in our Whiteman contract and being dissatisfied with the way things were breaking over here, partially accepted. We were getting quite fed up with this part of the country, and our material and manner of working had been so extensively pirated that the novelty had begun to pall. I figured a change of locale, new surroundings, new audiences, etc. coupled with the reputed avidity of the English for anything jazz and American would afford just the break to put us into something worthwhile.… We were convinced that over the proposed six months period, we could net ourselves about $350 a week with excellent prospects of an even greater return if the angles were worked properly. Now Whiteman has proved the fly in the ointment. He has become convinced of the impracticability of touring anymore and has arranged to stay definitely in New York with the Ziegfeld Roof, “Whoopie Show” [sic], radio and recording supplying the necessary angles. This, of course, is precisely the type of work for which he needs us the most, and he is fuming plenty about injunctions, suits of law and any other means of preventing our early departure. Further, I personally have been offered a nice contract for exclusive recording and radio work. This, of course, would necessitate disbanding the trio which I am reluctant to do. I guess the thrill of the footlights and the glamor of the greasepaint has got into my blood, for unquestionably an arrangement such as has been tendered to me, would provide a definite and lucrative future far in excess of present prospects, but without the attendant glory, and association peculiar to show business. Then too, Rinker would be left without anything, and having started with him, breaking away now, hardly seems the right thing to do.

So you can understand things are in a turmoil. Truthfully, I don’t know which way to turn. We are going into New York Sunday and, as we are expected to sail Friday next, some conclusion will have to be reached quickly although not too sure of myself I am reasonably convinced that my talents, if any, are above average, and there is a niche somewhere for me in this field. The difficulty lies in finding out where and connecting at once. I want you and Dad to believe that my chief desire is making out in a big way quick and doing something for you that will really matter. I realize fully that what measure of success I have attained is directly attributable to your guidance and upbringing and I know too, that your prayers and those of the sisters must have played no small part.

I have thought a great deal about Bob and now believe if you can wait until the present difficulties are definitely settled, (say until early spring) I can do something definite.… I know I owe you and Dad a great deal more than I can ever repay, and I hate to see him growing up doing himself irreparable harm just through his own willfulness. (As I did).…

I will be at the Belvedere hotel next week in the event you should write.

Love to all


P.S. Regarding your query concerning our vitaphone. Whiteman doesn’t wish his name used in a talking picture, short or otherwise, until he has made his first. Hence we are holding off. There is plenty of time and we’ll probably get more dough when we do.3

January 1932. From a letter to a fan, Mr. A. C. Collins, written in New York:

In response to your kind letter, I want to thank you very much for your interest in my broadcasting. Having no contact with our unseen audience, any applause or critical comment is greatly welcomed and appreciated.

Both Mrs. Crosby (Dixie Lee) and myself wish to thank you for your kind invitation to spend a vacation in Canada, as we can think of nothing that would be more pleasant. However, I feel, as you must know from your experience, that the luck I am having right now will not hold up forever, and I want to take advantage of it and make all I can while I can, and do not think I will get a vacation until late in the summer, at which time I expect to go back to California and do some picture work.4

September 1937. Bing Crosby’s handwritten list of his employees and their salaries:

House: housekeeper (Alice Ross, 100), nurse (Eve Waldorf, 100), chauffeur, maid, cook (all 75), watchman (120), gardener (80). Ross, nurse, maid, cook live in house.

Ranch: caretaker (125) and two laborers (100 each) for horses, caretaking, etc.

Stable: trainer (Albert Johnson, 200), and five labor (100, 80x3, 40). Equal 6900.

Office: Everett Crosby manager, Larry Crosby publicity (200), HL Crosby secty (200), Ruth Clark asst (120), clerk (100), bookkeeper (Clay Johnson) 100, EE Wyatt, clerk (100), Mary R Crosby clerk (25).5

Part One




Expert in cascading cadenzas and euphonious ululation, proud paterfamilias, acme of all virtues—that’s how we’d describe Bing Crosby if we had his vocabulary. But in plain English: swell singer, happy husband and father, grand guy.

Radio and Television Mirror, 19401

Shortly before supper on an evening near the close of 1940, the thirty-seven-year-old Bing Crosby entered the palatial yet intimate home he had built a few years before at 10500 Camarillo Street, in North Hollywood’s Toluca Lake district, and stepped into a too-familiar din. Turning the latch, he could hear his wife, Dixie, a few weeks into her twenty-ninth year, upstairs ranting at their four sons in a pitch verging on hysteria. He climbed the grand staircase that spiraled up to the first-landing bedrooms and stepped down the three shallow treads into Dixie’s dressing area. Sitting upright on a settee, she had the boys arrayed at her feet: seven-year-old Gary, the five-year-old twins, Phillip and Dennis, the not-quite-three-year-old Lindsay. She turned, disrupted and dazed, to her husband of ten years and instantly fell silent. Without a word, he put one arm around her back and the other beneath her legs, gently lifted her, and carried her to the bed.2

It was not the final straw, just one of many that weighed him down, triggering his resolve to make a startling change in his picture-perfect life—a life symbolized in magazine stories and on a bestselling postcard depicting their twenty-room Georgian Colonial. Fronted by a six-pillar colonnade with balconied entablature, it evoked Mount Vernon as modified by the architect of Tara. Beyond the showcase entrance hall, it served primarily as a doggedly private retreat where show business and its machinations could be held at bay. At the same time, it walled in Dixie’s growing dependence on alcohol, which made the retreat less than a haven.

Bing spent that day, as he did most of December, at Paramount Pictures competing with Bob Hope for wisecracks on the set of Road to Zanzibar. As usual, as the skies cleared (record-breaking rains drenched Los Angeles all season), he stopped at Lakeside to play nine or more holes before returning home to whatever new calamity awaited him. He kept his restlessness to himself. Crosby appeared to almost everyone as the most creditable of entertainers, his voice and personality incarnating continuity in volatile times, at once princely and familiar, imperturbable. Road to Singapore, his biggest picture yet, had kicked his career onto a new plateau in early 1940, and in the fall he dominated recording sales with three straight number one hits (“Sierra Sue,” “Trade Winds,” and “Only Forever”), a return to form after a relatively sluggish 1939. His weekly radio hour, Kraft Music Hall (KMH), placed reliably in the top ten of network programs. He wore his success blithely. His private life was thought to be idyllic and deserved. His wife, formerly a promising star in her own right, epitomized a rare combination: Hollywood-beautiful and girl-next-door-approachable. She was smart, charming, droll, athletic, fiercely loyal, and sometimes as sharp as a thorn—in the words of one besotted admirer, “altogether nifty.”3

Bing lived like a king with relatively disciplined appetites. He didn’t own a plane, a yacht, or a Rolls; had never been to Europe; kept no mistresses in hidden-away apartments; and thus far had erected no statelier mansions than the monument of Americana on Camarillo. At Rancho Santa Fe, California, where he ran a thoroughbred farm and administered a pro-am golf tournament, he surprised his trainers by arriving at the stables with the rosy fingers of dawn. He knew horses almost as well as they did. Paramount reproached him for working alongside his laborers when he renovated the property, since it meant the makeup department had to disguise his blistered hands. He loved singing, which had made him famous; golf and fishing, which he could well afford; and thoroughbred racing, which strained his holdings, not just because of the buying and training of horses and the maintenance of a stable, but because of the wagers he usually lost. Still, he had no addictions beyond the need to keep busy and no desire to flaunt the proof of his achievements. He owned a vast wardrobe, a hundred or so suits, but no one could tell that from his willful informality. He developed a head for business and a tight fist, but he remained a rich man with working-class manners, preferring Hawaiian shirts and khakis to full dress, and a library of books, recordings, and pipes to an entourage. Impatient with introspection, he communicated in a language of joking camaraderie: stoic, manly, rarely nostalgic, never sentimental, and often flippant. Admired for his intelligence, quick wit, and ability to converse about anything, he could not always resist the urge to sermonize. He was a devout Catholic, confident, independent, obstinate, and unaffectedly modest.

As Dixie’s bouts of drunkenness increased, the Crosbys appeared in public often enough to allay rumors of marital discord, or at least restrict them to the Hollywood community, where they were rife. A week at El Mirador in Palm Springs; a trip to Mamaroneck, New York, when Bing competed in the U.S. Amateur Open Golf Championship; a party at Café La Maze the day his horse Don Mike finished first in the $10,000 handicap at Santa Anita; various restaurants and nightclubs; a boxing match. They were spotted at a corner table at Perino’s Sky Room quietly singing to each other like young lovebirds as the John Kirby Sextet played songs from Bing’s pictures. Dixie’s friends noticed her growing reclusiveness. Her sons observed that at times she slurred her words. She often isolated herself in her room, unavailable to them. She fainted more than once. When she collapsed in the upstairs hallway, the housekeeper, who usually covered Dixie’s tracks, shooed the boys away. Bing later assured them she was fine. No need to worry.

Not until four or five years later did Gary draw the connection between his mother’s failings and alcoholism, a subject that people in those years tended to ignore, deny, or burlesque. “I’ll tell you something about my mother,” said Gary, whose own life and career were torpedoed by alcoholism. “For my mother to get up on that stage, she would have to drink. Because she was an alcoholic from birth, I don’t care what anybody says. She had no self-esteem, didn’t think she was pretty, didn’t think she was anything. And it didn’t get easier when she walked away from her career. When you feel that way, you’ve got to have something to get out there.”4

This was the era—not yet sobered from the binge that was Prohibition—when W. C. Fields enjoyed his last tottering hurrahs, when stolid MGM tuned its Thin Man franchise to the rattle of a martini shaker, and when Craig Rice, now forgotten but then characterized as the Dorothy Parker of detective fiction, wrote comical mysteries solved in a mist of rye and gin that landed her on the cover of Time. The Twelve Steps as framed by Alcoholics Anonymous had yet to find much traction. Its membership barely topped one hundred. Among those most skeptical about classifying excessive drinking as an infirmity were the medical men in the Crosby circle. The surgeon Arnold Stevens, a family friend and himself an alcoholic, told Dixie, “You’re very run down,” and advised brandy and milk. Dixie once told a columnist that during her pregnancies, brandy was all she could keep down. Decades after her death, which occurred three days before her forty-first birthday, her internist George “Jud” Hummer, who practiced in the Crosby Building on Sunset Boulevard and counted himself and his wife among Dixie’s dearest friends, refused to concede she had had a drinking problem. Joseph Harris, her obstetrician at Cedars of Lebanon who took her through three pregnancies, never thought—any more than most of his colleagues would have—to warn her of prenatal drinking. The term fetal alcohol syndrome didn’t appear until 1963.5

An exception was a psychiatrist, Anthony Sturdevant, who specialized in young people but saw Dixie regularly in the Crosby home. For short periods, he kept her off the booze. Yet seeing a psychiatrist had its own stigma, generating as much suspicion as alcoholism. Patients had to endure the stereotypes attached to analysis: presumptions of weakness, dark undercurrents, madness, electroshock. Bing encouraged Dr. Sturdevant’s ministrations, though they ultimately failed.6 A paradigm of self-discipline who thought depression treatable by exertion of will, Bing had proved by example that drinking was merely a bad habit. You just stopped, or you moderated it when it got out of hand. “He is the only one in the family I never saw drunk,” Gary marveled.7

Yet ten years earlier, Bing drank his way through the speakeasies of one city after another, waking in strange bedrooms, bathrooms, hotels, cafés, under tables, and failing to show for professional and personal engagements, incurring suits, threats, dismissals. He joked about leaving a “trail of broken bottles,” not hearts, after years on tour with Paul Whiteman’s orchestra in that woozy interval before he established his name on radio and in movies. Dixie forced him to reform. When her arguments and pleas had no effect, six months into their 1930 marriage, she flew to Agua Caliente and threatened a divorce. He pursued her and promised to turn his life around. Despite occasional missteps, he exceeded everyone’s expectations. His career flourished, as did the marriage. As far as the public knew, their union was not merely solid, it was exemplary, an article of faith, like the widely held belief that FDR stood on his own two legs or that George VI was an adept orator.8

In the spring of 1940, millions of Hearst readers opened the American Weekly, a Sunday supplement, to “Those Hollywood Divorces,” by Adela Rogers St. Johns. A Hollywood insider, St. Johns had a reputation for peeling away the tinsel; in truth, she merrily shoveled it on. This week her mission was to praise those couples who are “so happy they never make news” (the Harold Lloyds, the James Cagneys, the Crosbys) and to refute the argument that a woman’s devotion to her career poisons love. Her “research into the matter” included a discussion with Joan Crawford, “the most honest woman I have ever known,” who revealed that her marriage to Franchot Tone foundered not on the shoals of mutual careerism but because her relentless domesticity, ironing shirts and darning socks, got on his nerves. St. Johns then reversed her defense of working women by describing the “ideal” marriage of the Crosbys, which friends credited to the fact that Dixie had “abandoned her performing career and devoted herself entirely to being a good wife and mother.”9

That fall, Life ran a similar (unsigned) article, “The New Hollywood,” in which the stars “build homes, live quietly and raise children.” This new housebroken Hollywood was illustrated by a picture of the serene Crosbys: Baby Lindsay, seated on Bing’s lap, is turning to exchange a smile with his mother, who is standing behind Bing; surrounding them are the older boys, in matching uniforms. (“Like many movie children, they go to a military school.”) A caption acknowledges the hoary Hollywood precept that women prefer their matinee idols to be unmarried. “Bing Crosby’s family is perhaps Hollywood’s best. This rare photograph, taken by George Strock, would have been inconceivable ten years ago, when it would have wrecked an actor’s career. Besides being Hollywood’s proudest father, Bing runs a horse ranch, a race track, and an office building.”10

The Paramount Pictures publicity engine, with which Crosby seldom cooperated (hence the rarity of Life’s photograph), pushed this narrative hard. Fans seeking parenting advice wrote him letters, and Bing, a meticulous correspondent, responded. He shared an anecdote with a member of the Catholic Sportsman’s Guild: “One time I found it necessary to spank my oldest boy, Gary, age six, and afterward when I was attempting to make up with him, he said, ‘I’m going to get a farm and have a lot of pigs and make you take care of the pigs.’ Whereupon I said, ‘I’m going to get a farm and on it I’m going to have a lot of skunks.’ ‘Doggone,’ said Gary, ‘I forgot about skunks.’” To another correspondent, Bing wrote of his boys: “So far in their lives we have tried to make them self-reliant and have tried to instill in them a correct appreciation of values, and a knowledge of the difficulties necessary to attain financial security.”11

A week or so into the new year of 1941, shortly after Bing carried her to her bed, Dixie drove the six blocks from Camarillo Street to Kitty Sexton’s house on Cartwright Street to tell her devoted friend that Bing had demanded a divorce. She had hardly made it through the door before breaking down. Bing had it all planned, she explained, weeping. He’d instructed her to go to Sun Valley with the younger children and Kitty—he trusted only Kitty to travel with her—in order to establish residency and expedite the proceedings.


  • Someone has to make the case for Crosby's historical importance-and fortunately for Bing, Gary Giddins has taken up the gauntlet with surprising vehemence. Mr. Giddins is one of the leading music critics of the last half-century."—Ted Gioia, Wall Street Journal
  • Praise for Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams

    "Gary Giddins may be the best thing to happen to Bing Crosby since Bob Hope.... Crosby couldn't have hoped for a finer biographer: elegant writer, informed historian, thorough scholar, and one of America's most eminent jazz critics."—John McDonough, Wall Street Journal
  • "This is, quite simply, the best-researched, best-written, most entertaining music biography I've read."—Merrill Noden, Mojo
  • "In Volume 2 of his Churchillian-scale chronicle, [Giddins] magnifies six years that confirm Crosby's primacy among the searchlights of American music and identity. The word "definitive" seems petite. Presumably, further volumes are coming...In Giddins care, they likely will be equally compelling in their context. But the war years period has a glory that seems to live in a precious "Golden age" of the imagination."—Downbeat Magazine
  • "Phenomenal smarts and critical acumen.... A formidable biographer and exegetical wonder, Gary Giddins is so persuasive that even the most skeptical post-Boomer should close the book with the eerie sensation that it's Bing's world after all--we just live in it."—James Marcus, Atlantic Monthly
  • "Giddins packs exhaustive research and detail into his sprawling narrative while keeping the prose relaxed and vivid, and sprinkles in shrewd critical assessments of Crosby's music and films. Crosby emerges as an aloof, cool cat, and Giddins's engrossing show-biz bio richly recreates the popular culture he helped define."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • "It's been almost 18 years since the publication of Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, Gary Giddins's intelligent and formidably well-informed biography covering the entertainer's life from his birth in 1903 through the film that launched his mega-grossing partnership with Bob Hope.
Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star was the worth the wait. [An] evocative portrait of a man and a historical moment."

The Washington Post
  • "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....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.

  • Kirkus, starred review
  • "For a twenty-firstcentury audience, the idea of Bing Crosby as both a swoonworthy movie idol and an inspiration to battlehardened soldiers may seem difficult to comprehend, but that is the brilliance of Giddins' work: he makes us see how, in a very different time, Crosby's easygoing, waggish style was just what the country craved, on records and radio, at the movies, and in person. Tony Bennett may have said it best: "Bing taught
  • everyone to relax."

    Bill Ott, Booklist starred review
  • Selected as for "The Best Books of 2018" list—Publishers Weekly
  • "Gary Giddins practically knows more about Bing Crosby than Bing Crosby knew about Bing Crosby."—Spokane Spokesman
  • "Crosby's biographer Gary Giddins had choices to make. A formidable scholar of jazz and popular song, Giddins is certainly the man for the job...he lays his findings out with impressive clarity. Giddins guides us past...minefields in brisk, lucid prose, as smoothly controlled as a Crosby performance. His scholarship and thoroughness earn the highest marks."—New York Times Book Review
  • "Expectation was that Giddins would shape a companion volume covering the rest of Crosby's life. Instead, part two of what will ultimately stand as the definitive Crosby analysis and appreciation covers just seven years. As Giddins so superbly demonstrates, more than any other period, the stretch from the early- to mid-1940s was not only Crosby's most influential but also served to shape a canonized public persona that lasted his lifetime. Everyone thought they knew him. Few really did. As Dinah Shore observed, 'Bing was great [but] he wouldn't let you see that deeply into his soul.' Giddins may be the first to penetrate soul-deep."

  • Jazz Times
  • "Giddins traced Crosby's ascendant career arc and the milieu that framed it in clear, declarative prose."—The Barnes and Noble Review
  • "It's enough to make you eager for the third installment."—Dallas Morning News
  • "Swinging on a Star defines and solidifies Crosby's stature as a transcendent American original, beyond his annual Christmas revival."—The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • On Sale
    Oct 30, 2018
    Page Count
    736 pages

    Gary Giddins

    About the Author

    Gary Giddins wrote the Weather Bird jazz column in the Village Voice for over 30 years and later directed the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the CUNY Graduate Center. He received the National Nook Critics Circle Award, the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award, and the Bell Atlantic Award for Visions of Jazz: The First Century in 1998. His other books include Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams-The Early Years, 1930-1940, which won the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award and the ARSC Award for Excellence in Historical Sound Research; Weatherbird: Jazz at the Dawn of Its Second Century; Faces in the Crowd; Natural Selection; Warning Shadow; and biographies of Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker. He has won six ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Peabody Award in Broadcasting. He lives in New York, NY.

    Learn more about this author