Bing Heresy: Bing Sings Off Key

Posted by Richard Claar on February 11, 1999 at 22:47:33:

Please don't get me wrong--I'm a huge fan and have hundreds of albums and 78's and intend on acquiring more--But it seems to my hearing (perhaps defective) that on occasion the Great Groaner's intonation was less than perfect. That is, he would nail the note initially, but would trail off into an out of pitch thing. Perhaps most noticably on some mid-40's records on which he may have been over-worked or tired, such as his Decca recording of "Long Ago And Far Away". Love Bing; no offense. Any thoughts?

Posted by Arne Fogel on February 13, 1999 at 14:57:16:

In Reply to: Bing Heresy posted by Richard Claar on February 11, 1999 at 22:47:33:

Yes, there are some places where Bing is slightly off-pitch. We all love and admire him, it's no great "Heresy" to point this out -- in fact, its kind of fun! Bing himself once told Ken Barnes that when he holds a note out for a long time, he could "Get the vapors and go decidedly flat". Some noticable pitch problems occur: 1. On the last syllable of the word "vitamins" in the Decca studio recording of "Happy Holiday". 2. On the word "Again" once or twice during "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" for United Artists. Actually, I've never noticed a problem in "Long Ago And Far Away", which I think is one of Bing's most beautiful recordings of the period. I'll have to listen again. My vote for the all-time WORST note ever sung by Bing on a record (although the problem is more one of judgement and sloppiness rather than pitch) is the very last syllable "...lee" (from the word "Gallilee") in the Basie-Crosby "Put Your Hand In The Hand". In over twenty years of playing Bing's music on the radio, I've never presented that cut - because of that LAST NOTE! ....Whew!

Posted by Lars Roth on February 15, 1999 at 02:06:04:

In Reply to: Re: Bing Heresy posted by Arne Fogel on February 13, 1999 at 14:57:16:

I've got an old lp: 'A man and his country' also featuring 'Ballad for Americans' and 'Star-Spangled Banner'. And I know Bing recorded 'Banner' twice not too far between and, as this recording used on this specific LP, really sounds very flat, I've always suspected 'they' used the wrong take (or that mr Sinatra was involved with selecting the take). I have always enjoyed listening to this recording, but maybe for the wrong reasons. It would have been more likely to have it included in one of those 'fluff' collections! He wasn't known as 'one-take-crosby- without a reason...

Posted by Lee on February 12, 1999 at 08:40:01:

In Reply to: Re: Bing Heresy posted by Lars Roth on February 12, 1999 at 01:30:39:

I once had a car, a Dodge Magnum, and I brought it into the shop to be fixed. One of the guys there asked me if I wanted them to pull out the bumps on the side of the car. I said no thanks, they're supposed to be there, it's called design. The car had a neat molding to the sides and hood, it was made that way. The point is, Bing's singing was not flat, that's part of Bing's singing, it's the way the song is supposed to be sung. It's called style, a unique way that no one else had. That's why Bing is the best, he was an originator, a true stylist. Another singer may have sung the notes the way they were written, but Bing sang the song the way he felt, he couldn't read music. Thank goodness that he couldn't, it would have ruined his flair.

Posted by Henry on July 21, 1999 at 13:03:33:

In Reply to: Re: Bing Heresy posted by Lee on February 12, 1999 at 08:40:01:

I can't say I ever noticed Bing flat, but that may be because he was a crooner and pop singer who slid into his notes, as did Sinatra. Remember, Bing picked up his singing style from Louis Armstrong, a jazz innovator, and was strongly influenced by other jazz artists, particularly Bix Beiderbecke, who could color his notes like nobody else could. And Sinatra modeled his singing after Dorsey's trombone and Heifitz's violin -- variable pitched instruments. By contrast, Nat Cole played piano, a fixed pitch instrument, and when he sang he never slid into a note; he always hit the note squarely. But there are times, particularly as Bing got older, that he hit higher notes than he shoulda had oughta, and the voice thinned out too much. Bing did not have a wide dynamic range, and -- while he could at one time sing loud with all the power of an opera star, as in Mr. Music -- when he sang soft and high he got the vapors, as someone quoted him as saying. He was at his best in his mid and lower baritone ranges, where the voice remained firmer and fuller.

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