Bygones Be Icons

Mike 2 posted 04/23/03 08:47 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Yesterday afternoon, I managed to catch the BBC Radio 2 tribute to Bing which was scripted by Russell Davies and hosted by Pat Boone. Apparently, this is the first of three hour long programs. The program relied heavily on Tony Thomas's excellent 1961 interview with Bing, as well as on Gary Giddins's interesting, if to us familiar, comments. Of course, these were punctuated all through with Bing's own recordings. Gary quickly demolished all the treasured myths about Bing just as he did in the Introduction to the biography. It was quite effective and, one assumes, would have been news to many of his listening audience. At the very least, it should force them to rearrange their prejudices.

This left Pat Boone an opening to ask the pivotal question: if he was all that famous why do we now have to revive his memory? Ken Crossland came in on cue with, as always, some well chosen words on why Bing became "the forgotten man". He mentioned how Crosby's career was virtually over by the time stereophonic recording came along and consequently how most of his records which one hears on radio have an "old feel" to them. Once again, this line of argument will be very familiar to us but may well be something many of his listeners may not have taken into consideration up to this point. Ken went on to say that Bing will unfortunately be remembered by many people as an old man in a cardigan singing those awful orange juice commercials.

For some reason this image conjured up a similar memory of Orson Welles doing those equally embarrassing sherry commercials, but in doing so it raised a couple of uncomfortable questions. Welles by that stage was widely regarded as a man with a great future behind him, yet somehow, despite everything, his status remained undiminished. By the same token, Fred Astaire has always been regarded as effortlessly chic and a la mode for as far back as I can remember. It was always considered acceptable among the chattering classes to profess a liking for dear old Fred and his reputation has remained unassailed down the years - which is strange when you consider that his best known pictures are all in black and white.

Ken Crossland's point about the limitations of the sound technology of the Thirties and Forties and how they have shaped our present day perception of Bing is doubtless compelling, but we still have to leave room for that elusive and mysterious factor known as fashion. Why did all young women right across the globe feel compelled almost overnight to bare their midriffs? Darned if I know, but the fact itself is indisputable.

The tyranny of this kind of fashion is by far the easiest to recognize( we loosely refer to couture as "fashion" ), but it exists just as powerfully in Art and Literature and also in the popular arts. It may be more insidious and less easy to detect, but it is undobtedly there. I still find it odd that Rosemary Clooney who was quietly ignored for most of her life, and unjustly so, became something of an icon in the decade prior to her death. Tony Bennett has had something of the same experience. Bing, as we know, almost the very reverse.

This is a murky and intractable swampland, but worth exploring nonetheless. Anyone have any ideas? Incidentally, I should love to know what Radio 2's listening audience is like today. At its peak, when it was called the "Light Programme", it commanded audiences which would be considered astronomical by today's standards - especially during the era of "Two Way Family Favourites" and "Housewives' Choice". By all accounts, it involves an older audience during the evening hours which is when the Bing tribute was broadcast, so there is a certain element of preaching to the choir. That said, any exposure to the Great Cros is to be welcomed particularly if it comes via the Beeb.
Steve Carras posted 04/24/03 08:52 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Mike 2, you hit it dead-on. I would like also to point out something, Bing is neither fogotten nor "un-influential" (like Arne, I hate those terms as being applied to Bing Crosby myself!)--just that even with his continued box office success and such into WWII and such, by the later forties (what with bebop, the rebirth of Sinatra as the Rat Packer, and Sinatra DID have a downfall in the 40s-50s despite a 1950s quote from that challenged the notion Sinatra ever had a downfall*, and a young trucker named Elvis Presley, and the Beatles later), ---cutting that those Bing Crosby WAS for the time, stylistically, ttechnolgically, and musically----teens and adult music critcs by 1948 onward (esp.with Bing REALLY mellowin' out there, though it DID make his best nonholiday disc for my money in the post-1930s year--"Far Away places" from 1949) -teens and adult music crticis starting wonering what was the hubbub about! In short, times and popular trends were starting to pass Crosby by in spite of his cutting edge earlier. On the other hand, from Bing's time, zoot suits and singer slike Billie Holiday and the aforementioned (Frank,etc.) have a rebellious image that appeals today.

To give an example: Sally Field has long shed the Gidget image, but TVland still shows it, but it admittedly never made an impact the way even say,"Mr.Ed" or "Gilligan's Island"(not to mention Sid Caeser,etc.) did. Looking, the 1970s, at Sally's long dress, in part due to school dress code and because back then American teens had just STARTED to take a look at the miniskirts worn elsewhere--something that wouldn't QUITE take hold till 1966, after the future screen star and upcoming Legally Blonde 2 (with Reese Witherspoon) costar had left Gidget (it was cancelled in'66).(One could also for animal rights make a case that Reese's character in Legally Bonde is a dated Doris Day Marilyn Monroe giggly type, not a angsty type as would befit an Animal rights type--but the flick ain't out yet). Anyway, getting back to the Gidget analogy-Sally Field wears the actually timeless and in those days PRE-mini skirt-acceptance long skirts, which look corny perhaps at least for a while in reruns, but it was actuallykinda cutting edge.Maybe the issue of saddle shoes (which brings up early SInatra vs Later Sinatra!) vs zoot suits, the latter of which seem more timeless as a 40s teen fad while the first seem too "inncoent", would be the case here.

Another analogy-Shirley Temple had a 75(?>) birthday the 34rtd, and it is not mentioned in any papers.Not justt the biggest 1930s star, as child, but as a TEENAGER as well..but again wehat was hip (the perhaps done-to-deaht sitcommish-radio back then natch-girl to girl telephone talks, and goofy slang), seems dated next to the SAME rta's bebop talk. Yeah I know it's confusing, that was the point.>!

Anyway, the short of this is: Bing WAS cutting edge, with the operative word being WAS-yet SHOULD STILL be recognzied.
Mike 2 posted 04/26/03 03:45 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Steve, your mention of Billie Holiday is very interesting and I shall get back to it in a moment. I have been very busy for the past couple of days and did not get a chance to reply. First of all, I can understand your reluctance to refer to Bing as "the forgotten man". The reference, of course, is to "High Society" and I am not sure that it was used by Ken Crossland either.

At the same time, it is hard to describe what has happened to Bing if one is to deny the obvious. There is no nice way to put this and the best thing to do is to be blunt and honest, even if such admission does not come easily. Besides, an admission of this kind is in no way a reflection on Bing himself. Anyone who reads Shakespeare will know his views on the fickleness and mutability of public taste and opinion. Bing was extremely shrewd and was all too well aware of this. He was constantly downplaying his own gifts and even if the "humility" gambit sounded a little strained at times, I am sure his instincts were fundamentally sound. He was wise enough to hedge his bets early on.

Some years ago Malcolm Macfarlane ran an article on his website which was a reissue of an article by Mike Fish which had appeared in "Jazz Review". The article was well written, well informed and particularly sympathetic to Bing himself. Here are the opening sentences:
" For a man who was once regarded as one of the most popular people on earth, Bing Crosby's decline as a showbiz icon has been surprisingly steady. Like Al Jolson or Benny Goodman, Crosby has been a passive victim of changing tastes. Since his death in 1977, the greatest hitmaker of the 30s and 40s has been pushed aside by post-modern opinion."

Was it not Rosemary Clooney who said that in the quarter of a century that has intervened since Bing's passing, the ocean waves have simply washed over him - or words to that effect? She herself received almost exactly the opposite treatment.

Now, back to Billie Holiday. I cannot think of anyone whose stature has remained so unswervingly high for the past thirty or forty years. Yet, she died in 1959 and the bulk of her recorded output was from the pre-stereo era. Her classic recordings with Teddy Wilson were made from the mid-Thirties to the early Forties. The limitations of sound technology should equally apply to her as they do to Bing whenever an assessment is made. I am not attempting to minimise the importance of sound. All I am saying is that it is one factor, but the one everyone seems to be focussing on at present. This is short-sighted. The quixotic fluctuations of fashion play a huge part here just as they do in Art and Literature.

A year or two ago, some singer, it may have been Nina Simone ( posthumous apologies if it was someone else ) was being interviewed on television. The interviewer mentioned Billie Holiday, suggesting her as a possible influence. The singer sounded affronted. " I cannot stand the woman! ", she snapped. I was writing something at my desk at the time and only half listening, but nearly fell off the chair with shock. The idea that anyone would attack this sacred cow was altogether too much. I began to laugh helplessly.

Older lags may remember the famous " Bluffer's Guides ". I am not sure if they were ever published in the United States
but they had a very healthy sale in the U. K. They were intended for the type of busy person who had no time to read the latest books, but who did try to keep up with the reviews. The idea was to attempt to create a good( i. e. false ) impression at a dinner party or during the cocktail hour. You simply had to bluff your way and create the impression that you knew much more about a subject than you actually did.

There were slim volumes on Art, Literature, Music, Jazz, just to name a few categories. They were quite hilarious but also devastatingly accurate about the current state of politically correct(though that phrase was not then in use)
thinking on each topic. They had yellow covers, I seem to recall, and you could always pick them up at railway stations and in the larger bookstores. Many suspected that they were written by Oxbridge lecturers and people at the Courtauld Institute, places like that. The insider information was too exact for the blundering amateur.

There was a volume devoted to Jazz. Could easily have been written by somebody like Benny Green who was sharp, incisive, yet had no problems about sending himself up when necessary. Alas, my copy has long disappeared, as have all the others. I am going to take a terrible risk here and attempt to parody a parody.

An entry for Ella Fitgerald would run somewhat along these lines:
" It is a good idea to praise her purity of tone, mentioning her perfect pitch. But you must also insist that she cannot handle deep emotion and be careful to compare her unfavorably with Billie Holiday in this respect. She is in danger of being too popular among a non-jazz audience, so it would be wise to steer clear of the Songbooks. Safer to stick to recordings she made with smaller combos and people like Joe Pass which were critically well received, but did not have the wide circulation of some of her other material."

Not a patch on the original, but you can get the idea. The whole series was based on the contention that people's social antennae are usually hypersensitive and do not necessarily bear any direct relationship to their intelligence. Any first year student at a university can "place" an author without too much difficulty. A rigorous tutor will quickly find out whether he/ she is simply parroting received opinion or showing a genuine appreciation for the writer under discussion.

To repeat, I am not trying to dismiss the argument re sound technology as an explanation as to why Bing's star has faded. I believe that the movement of fashion is extraordinarily powerful at any given time; people need to be given "permission" from an authoritative source that it is okay to like one artist and to reject another.
Bob posted 04/26/03 10:51 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
These periodic discussions of the reasons for "the decline and fall of Bing Crosby" all seem to lead nowhere. Better to give our thanks and encouragement to Steven Lewis, Wig Wiggins, Malcolm Macfarlane, Wayne Martin, Greg Van Beek, Jon Oye, Arne Fogel, Judy Schmid, Jane FitzGerald, and all the others who are working so tirelessly to perpetuate Bing's memory.
Mike 2 posted 04/28/03 04:21 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
It would be very unfair to suggest that someone like Ken Crossland who expertly dealt with the question relating to Crosby's apparent decline in popularity in the recent BBC programme, " Bing - The Greatest of Them All? " has not, over the years, done his bit to publicize the famous singer. I have heard him on several BBC radio broadcasts and he has always acquitted himself most creditably. This does not mean to say that he has also abandoned his critical faculties.

In fact, next year he hopes to bring out a book on Michael Holliday, one of Bing's most famous proteges. If Bing seems to be forgotten at the present time, I do not think there are words which can adequately describe the collective amnesia which has set in with regard to Holliday in the years since his demise. I should imagine that this is one of the questions that Ken will have to address at the very beginning of his biography. It cannot easily be avoided.I wish that book every success and, if it sells well, it can only shed lustre( albeit indirectly ) on the singer who shaped Mike's career and whom he so idolised.

In the same way, Pat Boone has always been a great champion of Bing and has never disguised his indebtedness to him. I do not know what input he had in the programme alluded to and which he presented. But he did pose the painful question. It would have been irresponsible for him not to have done so.

To suggest that such things be brushed under the carpet and that we would be all better off if we were out there at street corners flogging Crosby records to unsuspecting passers-by is to set up a false antithesis. It would be tantamount to saying that we should forego all discussion on the present difficulties experienced by the airlines and simply make sure we build more planes and then go off and travel to all points of the compass( like Stephen Leacock's imge of the man jumping on his horse and galloping off on all directions ). Both elements are necessary but not necessarily exclusive of one another.

More ominously, such an attitude questions the whole raison d'etre of a website such as this. All aspects of Bing have been and will( I hope ) continue to be discussed, even those most painful to contemplate. I cannot recall anyone who has devoted more of his own life and of his limited financial resources to Bing's cause than the late Leslie Gaylor. Yet, Leslie, as he constantly reminded one, was only a simple lathe operator. His mission was to make an absolute nuisance of himself for( as he saw it ) a very worthy cause. Some movers and shakers in the entertainment industry he appealed to, others he repelled. On balance, he probably opened more doors than he shut. He was the ultimate "hands on" enthusiast and a major figure to be taken into acount when we come to consider the provenance of the rich Crosby legacy which we all now enjoy.

But Leslie's apostolate was a very specialised one, his gifts and his limitations peculiar to himself. There were others with very different talents who advanced Bing's cause in all sorts of other ways. The present apparent decline in Bing's appeal should in no way be taken as reflecting poorly on him. Many writers and artists undergo such a period of obscurity in the years following their death. And public taste can,frankly, become decadent. The poet, John Betjeman, spent most of his life trying to educate an indifferent public about art and architecture which they had not appreciated and even held in low esteem. The thing was he was largely successful. Almost single-handedly, he first educated and then reshaped the taste of an entire nation. I hope I am not alone in finding any attempt to censor or stifle any legitimate discussion of things relating to Bing sinister and to be deplored especially on this excellent site.
DEAN posted 04/28/03 01:24 PM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
I posed this question the other day but no one latched on to it---

In 1950 I was eighteen. Had someone approached me with recordings made by an extremely popular singer in 1898, how interested would I have been; and remember, there was no powerful youth culture, fed by people who have no kind of culture then. This is what we are asking of contemporary youngsters. Should we be too surprised when they roll their eyes and turn away? I don't think so.

In order for youngsters to take an interest in Bing it's necessary to associate him with what's going on in modern entertainment. This is the key to opening the door to Bing's great talents and revealing them to today's youth.

A couple of years back the BBC ran a Tv series called "The Singing Detective." This was a brilliant sequence of programmes which was gloomy, funny and sexy in turn. It gripped the youth in this country and they sat and watched actors mime to old thirties recordings in the musical sequences.

In one great moment the hero stepped up to a mike in a village hall and mimed to Bing singing "Don't fence me in" with the Andrews sisters being played by three old ladies while a shirtsleeved man hammered the piano. It looked and sounded great.

The next day I was in Woolworths in a nearby seaside town and I was surprised to find a crowd of youngsters around the record counter trying to buy the recording they'd heard in the play. No one knew what it was or who it was by. I gave them the information but the record was obviously not in stock; just the usual top twenty.

The enthsiasm of those kids proved to me that if Bing can be presented in some conemporary setting on a regular basis then he'll be on his way back to us. But leave him locked behind cobwebbed doors and his voice can only grow fainter.
Judy Schmid posted 04/28/03 02:25 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Dean - sorry that I didn't add my tuppence to your commentary ;-) .

But I see what you're saying and find it an interesting approach - I remember a few years ago an unsavory character played by Matt Damon in a film danced around to a Bing Crosby tune - it made me laugh, but that's because I discovered Bing as a child (when Bing was 'passe', as my classmates informed me in the late 1960s) and the image struck me as a modern audience, it might've been a little comical or even sinister, as the character was revealed to be a murderer later in the film. However, the film was popular because the young actors in the film were popular.

My teenaged daughter teases me about Bing..and yet she's recognized his wonderful voice and commented upon it. Even her friend was learning about early technology of the 20th century in school and printed out something she found on the internet - about Bing's investment in early tape recordings - and she couldn't wait to hand it to Maura to give to me.

So, I think we're all doing our bit when we can - we've got to be careful that we don't over-do it (although it's difficult now - his centenary is Saturday!) Some folks open their homes and proudly display their Crosby memorabilia...others purchase or duplicate music to share with radio folks...others find senior citizen newspapers to write articles for...

I'm just grateful there are still forums like this where people can actively talk about Bing (yes, Howard, your uncle Bing would be flabbergasted!) And there are still people with us who KNEW Bing can share their stories - and that there are still active fan clubs... and I'll be handing out those Universal/MCA double-CD sets to my family members at Christmas - each of them has children to share them with!
Steve Carras posted 04/28/03 03:56 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
The Damon movie that Judy refers to is of course 1999's TALNTED MR.RIPLEY and "May I?" was the song (1903s)
Mike 2 posted 04/29/03 11:56 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
There is a story told of an Oxford don who was taking a tutorial with his pupil who happened to be reading Greats (i. e. majoring in the study of classical languages, the most prestigious of the Oxford Final Honour Schools and, supposedly, the most difficult undergraduate course in the world ). The callow youth asked him what was the point of learning all that useless stuff which had to do with dead languages and civilizations long gone.

The don puffed meditatively at his pipe for a few moments before replying: " Not much point really except that it will, from time to time, enable you to despise the wealth which you most assuredly will never earn."

It was a crass question and one that was unlikely to be asked by any Oxford entrant, let alone someone bright enough to qualify for that demanding course. But, no doubt, there are some narrow utilitarian boneheads and other assorted dullards who will come along and pose it from time. You could say that it is the ultimate example of a study that seems "to lead nowhere ". You cannot easily compare it to rotating the tyres of your car, or draining the oil sump, both of them tasks which unquestionably lead somewhere.

The professor's withering scorn conveys the fact that such study is its own reward, serves no narrow utilitarian purpose, yet is the basis on which the whole of Western civilization stands. Many men who fought in the great wars knew instinctively what they were preserving.

In his Preface to "The Picture of Dorian Grey", Oscar Wilde stated( if a little tongue in cheek ) that "all art is quite useless". If it contributes to the GNP, that is incidental to its avowed purpose. It would be impossible to calculate the wealth generated in Italy alone through visits to its museums and art galleries, but that is something not foreseen by the original creators. Visitors to Dublin are often drawn there precisely because of people like Wilde and Shaw, Joyce, Yeats and Samuel Beckett, not many of whom made much money in their own lifetime. It would be particularly amusing to imagine someone going to see a performance of "Waiting for Godot" and then walking out after the first ten minutes because it seemed "to lead nowhere".

If you prescind from those postings on the Board which are purely informational in nature[ e. g. Where can I get this Japanese import? Is that CD still available? Can anyone send me the lyrics of "Galway Bay"? ], most of the remainder "seem to lead nowehere". Thank heavens for that and long may it continue.

Reading through them is nearly always an interesting experience. True, some are tedious, others amusing, some which bring up exotic names such as Elvis Costello and Elton John along the way, but which eventually get back on track. Surely if the Board cannot accommodate all that, what purpose does it serve? It would survive as an information board would not be nearly as much fun to visit.

On the related question of whether Bing will ever appeal to the present younger generation, I have no strong opinions. We have to accept that we have lost a couple of generations en route. If they happen to make contact indirectly via Dennis Potter or Patricia Highsmith, then all to the good.
What bothers me is the way that history is being rewritten, how, for instance, Bing's favourite film has slyly become Frank Sinatra's HIGH SOCIETY even though he only had a supporting role. I just happen to be fascinated by changing fashions in thought, by how mercurial the public can be -
something that Bing was all too well aware of, I have no doubt.
DEAN posted 04/29/03 01:34 PM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given

MIKE 2, I have just read your learned gallop through the many aspects of survival as applied to artists in general and Bing in particular. I found it to be both interesting and enjoyable. A quotation kept flashing faintly in my ageing brain. It said (More or less) referring to the pharaohs and their search for immortality," To be pyramidically extant is an exercise in futility."

That's probsbly misquoted but you get my drift. In the end it probably doesn't matter if the present generation ignores Bing Crosby. He must eventually be recognized in future histories as the dominant figure in 20th century entertainment. If by some chance he is not then something very strange will have overtaken the judgement of our descendents.

One more quote. At the end of "Goodbye Mr Chips," someone says that the old and dying Headmaster will always be remembered at the school. The next line says that this is wrong,"As all things are forgotten in the end."

Rather sad, but probably true.
Arne posted 04/29/03 04:07 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Interesting comments on the old "forgotten Bing" subject and history in general. In this reference, we should all raise a glass to Jay Leno, who has, through his "Side-walk All-Stars" concept, turned the notion of young people's cultural ignorance from being considered "cool" to being a subject of derision and ridicule. Thanks to Jay, all America laughs at the youngsters who can't tell you who the Vice-President of the United States is, who fought in WWII, etc. I like this feature. Maybe more kids will see that it's a good idea to "bone up" on the events that took place more than 15 minutes ago, or risk looking like an idiot on TV!

Why is Bing "out of the loop", culturally speaking, to some people? Haven't we gone over this again and again? I know I have! It's simple: Bing's major accomplishments and period of legendary stardom have been monumetnally overshadowed by the nature of his image and endeavors during the final 20 years of his career. The Christmassy, family-entertainer lost all connection to the world of pop-music and concert presentation that all the others - Bennett, Sinatra, etc. - maintained. Sure, he made records, some great ones, during this period. But he didn't promote them. The result is that an entire generation has grown up, reached middle-age, and passed on to younger generations the notion that Bing wasn't even in the running, any more than, say, a Durante, Chevalier, or Kaye would be. To know Bing's real legacy is to be an archivist - history buff. And that is what most people, sadly, are NOT!

But, thanks to Gary Giddins, Will Friedwald, Wig Wiggins, Steven Lewis, and several others (including all the dedicated people on this marvellous board) Bing is in much higher regard and more universally considered for his accomplishments than at any other time since his death. Always remember, however: America has chosen to elevate certain deceased celebs to an iconic level that NO ONE else - nobody how worthy - will ever reach. Elvis, Marilyn, Bogie, Frankie, etc. That's just the way it's gonna be!
Mike 2 posted 04/30/03 11:33 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Bob, your mention of Cardinal Newman was particularly relevant for what he had to say but also for another reason. It immediately brought to mind his nearest equivalent in the Twentieth Century, the hero of my own youth, the brilliant Ronald Knox - later to become Monsignor Ronald Knox.
When Evelyn Waugh had completed his impressive biography in 1959, he expressed the hope that the work " will prove to be the forerunner of many weightier studies " -
a very reasonable expectation at that time. Alas, Knox disappeared from the radar screen almost straight away. He is barely remembered today and his once monumental reputation as the 'Second Newman' has all but vanished. If anything, he is now overshadowed by his brother who was one of the big noises at Bletchley where they broke the secret German Code, as well as by his niece, the novelist,
Penelope Fitzgerald.

The icons you mentioned, Arne, are, indeed, unassailable. My own chemical reaction to Marilyn Monroe stands at zero. I have always found other stars of her era much more attractive, especially Rita Hayworth, but( you are correct )
she is the one who has been granted iconic status. It is also true that, thanks to those you have named, Bing's standing now seems more assured than it has been at any point since his death.

This gives a small ray of hope. A brief example of what is possible for one man to do comes from Ireland. By the late forties and early fifties, traditional Gaelic music had reached an all time low and was in danger of extinction. A couple of years ago, a long time researcher and archivist remarked that he well remembers musicians going down back streets in Dublin, furtively holding their instruments under their arms as they made their way to draughty halls. They seemed to be apologetic, a little ashamed of what they were doing.

Within two decades all that would change dramatically. What was once regarded as a symbol of all that was old and passe
[ much like Crosby, if you will ] soon became the very essence of radical chic. If you want to pinpoint one person in particular who brought about this radical change - and
I doubt if there is any argument about this - it was a brilliant young musician named, Sean O 'Riada( John Reidy )
who was studying classical music at a Paris conservatoire. Just like Synge, he got a kind of spiritual call to return to Ireland and work on his own native musical heritage. A musical setting to a film documentary in which he used traditional melodies in a most extraordinary way first brought him to the attention of a wider public. He came to be regarded as an Irish Ralph Vaughan Williams.

I met him a few times later on during his all too brief career. Like many of his compatriots, he had a fondness for the sauce and that killed him eventually and at a young age.
I mention him only because of the speed of the cultural transformation which he had helped bring about. By the mid-seventies thousands of young people were flocking to Ireland from Germany, the Low Countries, Scandanavia, America, Australia and around the world, often taking part in impromptu jam sessions which were happening all over the country. Unlike jazz, this was not a new music, but a very old music which was rediscovered and refurbished. O 'Riada founded a group which eventually gave rise to the Chieftains, which further led to novelties like "Riverdance"
itself attracting a whole new audience, and so on it goes.

I am not suggesting that the same thing could happen in Bing's case, but I do think public taste can be swung round, given favourable conditions. In O 'Riada's case, it seemed to happen overnight.

Thanks, Dean, for your kind words. I loved the quote about the Pharaohs as well as those sobering words from "Goodbye Mr. Chips". Strange to think that Bing actually appeared on a radio programme with James Hilton once or twice. As you know, the famous poem that links your two quotations is by Shelley. The broken statue of Ozymandias, "king of kings", is lying there. Just as in the case of Saddam, the terror of his reign is commemorated on the pedestal. "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Then comes Shelley's own chilling verdict.

"Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
Tom Degan posted 05/01/03 07:12 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
In his 1974 biography of Lenny Bruce, Albert Goldman wrote, "What happens to the underground hero after he dies? He lies for a number of years in the cold, dark earth of oblivion. Then his cult begins to resurrect him. Men write articles and legends accumulate. Old records and tapes are dug out and played with devotional intensity. The reputation that may have been tarnished and tired at death springs up with a vigor that no living artist can rival."
While it might be a bit of a stretch to refer to Bing as an underground hero (although the neglect of his reputation as an early innovator in the art of jazz singing might deem this as so) and while it would be grossly unfair to call the regular contributors to this very informative and entertaining web-site as a "cult" (perish the thought, gentle reader), there is something to be said of the fact that artists whose impact on their culture and time is substantial and undeniable, do eventually "come back to life" after a certain amount of time. (Lenny Bruce being a notable case in point). One can only hope (or really expect) that this phenomenon will occur with respect to the artistry of Bing Crosby.
Mike 2 posted 05/01/03 01:20 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
A brief footnote. Perhaps, John Wayne should be added to the list of icons mentioned by Arne.
If so, then he will have displaced Gary Cooper who at one stage seemed destined to become the ultimate Western hero.
I am a little out of my depth here. Someone, better versed than I am in this area, may care to comment.
Brian R. Johnson posted 05/01/03 03:17 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Icons are, as the name implies, smaller representations of larger ideas or ideals. So if life were a computer desktop, what would your Crosby icon click to?

For "Man's Man," would it be John Wayne? Would a Sinatra icon take you to "Mobster Swing?"

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