Bing Crosby, the ‘Voice of America’
A hundred and twenty years ago, on May 3, 1903, in Washington state, a star was born—literally. Harry Lillis Crosby, known to fame as “Bing” Crosby, became one of the most popular stars ever of screen, song, and radio. Indeed, he was once known as the “Voice of America.”
Bing was an Irish-American Catholic whose persona of laid-back charm and humor captivated Americans of the 1930s, 1940s, and beyond. He was the most iconic crooner of the Golden Age of Hollywood and won an Academy Award for best actor for his role as the Catholic priest Fr. O’Malley in the 1944 film Going My Way. He was an Oscar nominee two other times as well, and won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. During World War II he was known as the “Voice of America,” and in 1948 Americans voted him the “most admired man alive.” His recording of the iconic song “White Christmas” is still the number one selling song of all time by a wide margin.
Bing abruptly lost much of his popularity after his death, when his son Gary published a book smearing Bing with multiple awful allegations, including child abuse. Unfortunately, the damage was done to Bing’s memory before Gary finally admitted much of what he alleged were simply lies, told to make more money. Gary’s half-sister Mary explained, “And Gary said to me that the publishers had told him ‘the worse it was the more books would sell’ and he was very clear about why he did it and what he did…And years later he apologised profusely to us but by then the damage was done.”
Gary’s brother Phillip also said Gary had exaggerated in his book, and half-brother Harry said he had never been abused by Bing and that his dad was loving and supportive. In fact, according to Irish America, Phillip “described his father as the greatest dad in the world.” Irish America also says that when questioned by columnist and musicologist Gary Giddins, Gary Crosby denied much of what he’d written in his book, particularly relating to Bing’s supposed child abuse, frequently saying when evidence undermined his claims, “I don’t remember writing that, I was drunk at the time.”
It’s time justice was done to Bing’s memory. With all his faults and failings, Bing was a good man and a very talented actor and singer. Enjoy one of his greatest hits today and remember the “Voice of America”!