posted 09/04/05 07:31 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Steven, your article on Bing and Elvis Presley is very well done. I really enjoyed reading it.
posted 09/04/05 10:44 AM Central Time (US) no email address given
As much as I would like to concur with Steven's interpretation casting doubt as to the statement's validity, I clearly recall reading it in "Bingang" Club Crosby's journal, circa 1975.
Perhaps someone stll has the "hard copy" and can corroborate. I do know that Priscilla Koenig, who, together with the late Patricia Sullivan co-edited the fanzine at the time, would be able to confirm this.
As I recall it, the quote came during an "informal" visit, and was not intended for mass, national consumption. I'm sure that had Bing realized it would be seized upon many years later, he might have chosen his words differently, perhaps just saying the "Oh, he sings well enough, I suppose" part. Bing certainly was aware of the quote appearing in "Bingang" and could have retracted or clarified it, but for whatever reasons, chose not to. Again, it should be noted that this was a somewhat impromptu "interview"/discussion, and not a formal, public pronouncement as was his statement following Elvis' death. I believe also that Bing was not in a particularly good mood on this day, as I recall the article starting off with a quote from Bing about the "crap" (messy conditions) at the location, which was clearly annoying to him.
In the final analysis, I don't think so much weight should be given to this one "outburst" from Bing in his later years. In the context of the other artists mentioned in the question that was posed to him, he probably did not hold Elvis in the same esteem as he did the others based on his tastes in Popular Music, ie., the Great American Songbook. Nevertheless he still acknowledged Elvis' popularity. It is not totally unlike his reaction when asked about the Beatles- where he indicated that he would agree that they have written SOME good songs- declining to give a "blanket" validation.
posted 09/04/05 12:36 PM Central Time (US) no email address given
It could be Bing was saying what he knew Vern Wesley Taylor wanted to hear. Salisbury did not include the comment in his 40-hour broadcast. He may not have included it because (a) Bing didn't make it or (b) Bing made it but Salisbury didn't think Bing really meant it. Bing's other statements about Elvis would lead one to believe that the questionable statement was not reflective of Bing's perspective on Elvis. No doubt the gyrating hips of Elvis was not something that would have pleased Bing and other folks of his generation. (Bing poked musical fun of this in his 1958 recording "I Can't Get Started.") But Elvis was every bit as important musically as David Bowie, who Bing worked with and gave positive reviews despite his transgender personna.
Perhaps in his broadcast Salisbury used the 1957 interview with Bing about Presley because he felt it was more reflective of Bing's attitutde. Note that in that interview Pete Martin tries to argue against Bing's positive assessment of Presley, but Bing refuses to diss Presley.
What great singer would Bing more likely make the statement that "he never contributed a damn thing to popular music"? My guess this response would be to the name "Bing Crosby," who in interview after interview denigraded his singing ability and influence.
posted 09/04/05 12:41 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I have the raw (unedited) interview tapes conducted by Vern Taylor from the mid-70s period. Slatzer must have interviewed Taylor and gotten Taylor's slant on the quote, rather than a transcription or tape of the exact quote, for it is not as vehement as Slatzer makes it out to be. Giving Slatzer the benefit of the doubt (I'm not sure why!), Taylor might have layered on his own dislike of Presley as he related his version of Bing's "quote"
There is no way I am currently going to be able to sift through two reels of quarter-track-mono tape to find the portion of the Taylor interview right now; I'm just working from memory here. But Taylor does, indeed, ask Bing about a number of his contemporaries. Then, he springs the name "Presley" on him. There is no "damn thing" vehemence, more of a typical, calm, Crosby response along the lines of... "Oh...., I don't think he contributed so much..... Been successful.... Good sense of rhythm, I guess....." and like that. Most importantly, the TONE of the response is calm, a little contemplative, not angry or dismissive. I believe Taylor was paraphrasing Bing when conveying his info to Slatzer, after which Slatzer took the supposed "anger" aspect of the comments and ran with them.
Regarding the Beatles - There is another interview - in print - wherein Bing attributes the rise in overall musicianship and accomplishment on the part of British musicians to the influence of the Beatles! (could it be the 1976 Leonard Feather interview?) - Obviously, he changed his mind on these issues as, perhaps, we all do, regarding various things.
posted 09/04/05 12:56 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Steven's posting immediately before this one reminds me that I often get Salisbury and Taylor confused.... the interviews I have are the ones conducted by the broadcaster who would go to Bing's home, conduct extensive interviews, then edit them into his weekly Crosby broadcasts during the 1970s. he was located in the Pacific Northwest area, I believe.
posted 09/05/05 10:33 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Speaking of Elvis reminds me of the afternoon of August 31st.1957 when a friend and I attended his outdoor "concert" as a couple of 18 year olds at Empire Stadium in Vancouver B.C. It was a beautiful late summer afternoon and a crowd of approx. 15,000 young people had gathered on the football field and in the stands.
One end if the field was cordoned off and a large wooden stage had been constructed. An unknown group proceeded Elvis on stage and when he finally appeared the crowd [mostly girls from what I remember] went absolutely nuts.
Elvis "sang" 5 or 6 numbers, but with all the yelling and screaming [from mostly girls from what I remember] I could hardly recognize the songs.
After approx. 45 minutes the crowd broke through the ropes and rushed and surrounded the stage. They announced that Elvis had "left the building" and that the "concert" was over and that we should all now go home.
I remember hearing some girls talking and saying "Oh! wasn't he just great" I guess they had better ears than I did. As kids I guess it was all very new and exciting but a musical event it was not. This event reconfirmed my appreciation for Bing who I had, at the time, only recently "discovered"
posted 09/05/05 04:07 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Well, you win, you internet bullies... Here's the info:
The context is important: Salisbury has just been firing off a number of names of people who Bing either idolized, worked with, or generally had something in common with and regarded highly: Duke Ellington, Al Jolson, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Connie Boswell, etc. etc. Suddenly, Salisbury says something about some more "contemporary figures" and asks about Elvis Presley. Although it would be easy to understand Bing's being "underwhelmed" by this sudden shift away from the discussion of the music and style he so dearly loved, Bing replies with absolutely no sense of anger or bitterness in his voice. Here is his response, verbatim (whatever that means):
"Well, he's got something....what it is eludes me.... I can hear him once in a while. I don't think he's, er...really contributed anything, in the way of..... he's certainly unique! - He's got a great manager, and he's done some great, great records. Maybe one or two of 'em I like, but most of 'em sound a great deal the same..."
- Next, Salisbury says: "The Beatles?" Bing's response:
"....The Beatles wrote some great things, and they had some big records, too. But I think their greatest contribution has been what they wrote, and the vogue they started. - Because they opened up the field for that kind of singing group, and some great ones have come out of it, because of the fact that the Beatles made it popular. They were young, good-looking, and full of enthusiasm, and they really created a tremendous, tremendous era in the music business..."
...There you have it. The event of these interviews is described in "Hollow Man" as having been attended and conducted by BOTH Salisbury and Taylor, hence my confusion before regarding these two. The book's distortion of Bing's quotes is due either to Taylor's faulty memory (or his personal dislike of Presley-Beatles music), or Slatzer's own penchant for distortion. Either way, the nature of the now often-quoted Bing remark regarding Elvis is clearly a lie.
posted 09/06/05 08:09 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Bing would never have "set the record straight". because he never read any fan club magazines. He hated to read anything about himself. He hated flattery. He would be absolutely astonished to find this active web site exists nearly 30 years after his death, and if he were around, he would never read anything posted here. Too much flattery.
posted 09/07/05 10:43 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
You knew Bing better than any of us, but I do not believe that your statement "...he never read any fan club magazines" is correct. Bing was gone from us by the time I became editor of Bingang, but I have read quite a few of the older issues of that magazine, and former editors like Priscilla Koernig, Pat Sullivan, and Rena Albanese often spoke of Bing's kindness to them and to Club Crosby. There were times when he even donated money to the club. He also sent encouraging letters, which were printed with great pride in the magazine. Priscilla and Pat used to bake him birthday cakes and cookies and were often granted interviews by Bing, who considered them to be friends and called them by their first names. He may not have read magazines published for other stars, but I am certain that he read "Bingang."
posted 09/07/05 05:18 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I was intrigued by Arne's being able to deliver Bing's comments on Elvis Presley's talent verbatim.
The question of Presley's actual talent is something I tend to avoid. From what I knew of Bing's taste in singers, I surmised that he wasn't terribly impressed with Elvis as a singer. This isn't to say that he would ever denounce him.
I never heard Bing knock anyone. But the standards that Elvis stood for were not Bing's standards.
While one cannot deny Presley's success and popularity, I have to say that in all my years in the music industry, I personally never met a single musician or singer who rated Elvis. Once, during a conversation with Nelson Riddle, the name Presley came up and the normally amiable Mr. Riddle shuddered and said " Presley ? Always under the note and awful phrasing. Let's talk about something worthwhile."
The thing with Elvis is that he just wasn't sophisticated.
He never stretched himself vocally. Within his own area of rock'n'roll he was totally at home and, as a ballad singer, he stuck to the most simple compositions. But he was ill-equipped to tackle the works of Gershwin, Porter, Arlen and
other such giants of 20th century songwriting nor did he have sufficient skill to sing in a jazz or big band context. All of the areas where Bing and oother great singers were comfortably expressive.
Yet Elvis had something that commanded the loyalty of millions. He must have have had something special. How else could he have survived so many dreadful films ? And the songs that were written for those films were generally mundane pieces written by hack writers. None of these songs enjoyed a life outside of these films.
Now, Bing made his share of inferior films but by and large he was well-served in the song department by such writers as Johnny Burke, Jimmy Van Heusen, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. Several of Bing's film songs were Oscar-nominated and four of them actually collected the prized statuette. Also many of these songs went on to become solid favourites with jazz musicians and several generations of singers. One cannot say that of Presley's output.
When talking about Elvis, Bing was polite and diplomatic. But he couldn't, in all honesty, bring himself to applaud Elvis in the way he did such singers as Ella, Louis,Connee Boswell, Rosie Clooney, Judy Garland,Peggy Lee, Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Jolson,Perry Como and Mel Torme'
All of these artists were on Bing's side of the musical fence. Elvis, for all his popularity, was just not in the same league artistically. And I think Bing's hesitancy in responding to John Salisbury's question shows this in no uncertain terms. He didn't knock the guy nor could he bring himself to rave about him.
Thanks, Arne, for throwing the light of accuracy onto this much debated topic.
posted 09/08/05 02:55 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Someone once said: 'I would never go to an Olympic stadium to listen to an athlete; conversely, I shouldn't be expected to visit a theatre to watch a singer.' Nowadays this would seem a preposterous statement. Image is at least as important as musicianship in determining a singer's popularity, particularly when modern production methods can mask the lack of musical talent. Wasn't Elvis one of the pioneers of this era when songs became the mere 'carrier waves' for visual presentation, faked attitudes and overtly expressed sex appeal. To use a somewhat hackneyed UK phrase: 'They moved the goalposts.' And they've made any straightforward comparisons between Bing and Elvis meaningless.
posted 09/08/05 04:35 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I actually considered myself an Elvis fan when he was still alive, and immediately after. It's only after he was elevated, after his death, into the realm of religious icon and all-round king of 20th century entertainment that I began to sicken of him. The nature of his post-death fan-worship made me somehow embarrassed to enjoy him......
Ken, I appreciate your comments regarding my having scrounged through my files to find the authentic quote re: Bing and Elvis (which I will forward to Steven as soon as I get a chance, so that you can all hear it). As far as that elusive "something" that Elvis had - here's my take on it:
Presley had a sort of animal magnetism, highly sexual and sensual, that endeared him to the young women in his audience, as well as the young men who wanted to emulate him (as John Lennon once said, when he and the other young boys of his generation first saw the girls enthusing over Elvis, they all said to themselves: "HE'S got a good job....").
Musically, and regardless of who his influences were, Elvis' singing style was entirely new, exciting, and in a rock 'n' roll context, innovative and ultimately influencial. In his early career, before the Hollywood trappings took over, he was beyond category. Had he continued making movies like "Jailhouse Rock" and records like "Heartbreak Hotel" there would have been no comparing him to Crosby or Sinatra, as he was working an entirely different aesthetic(sp?) - It's only after he became more "homogenized" in the 60s that we were able to draw the comparisons, re; inferior movies, movie songs, etc., because only then did Elvis allow himself to fall into the Crosby career model - and because of the points that Ken has mentioned, Presley came up short. Would he have done better if his handlers had commissioned better songs and scripts? probably not, because he was NOT a theatrical personality, NOT a jazz singer. He was a superlative ROCKER.... and Rock n Roll and the traditional movie musical don't mix.
Now, in my years in music, most of which were spent with rock-generation colleagues both on gigs and in the studio, everyone I dealt with considered Elvis a giant, and a defining force in music, even if they weren't individually "fans", per se. Most of these folks, people around my age, were puzzled by my interest in Crosby (the usual "Doesn't he just sing about Christmas?"--attitude that used to annoy the Hell out of me). So, I guess it's all a matter of perspective.
In short, I would say this: As an innovative talent for the rock generation, Presley was the top man, one of the architects of a brand-new sound that has enraptured the world. All credit to him for that. But, when you put him into the "Crosby" realm (adapting the aesthetic of the jazz-influenced tin-pan-alley school of classic pop music), Presley was let down by the inferior talents he was saddled with, as well as his own shortcomings in that field.
posted 09/08/05 10:53 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
As a matter of interest, Laurence J. Zwisohn in his book, "Bing Crosby~A Lifetime Of Music", published in 1978, listed 31 songs that Bing and Elvis each recorded. It's an interesting list.
Adeste Fideles/O Come All Ye Faithful
Beyond The Reef
Down By The Riverside
The First Nowell
Gentle On My Mind
Have I Told You Lately That I Love You
Here Comes Santa Claus
I'll Be Home For Christmas
I'll Take You Home Again,Kathleen
Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho
O Little Town Of Bethlehem
Old MacDonald Had A Farm
Put Your Hand In The Hand
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
When The Saints Go Marching In
Zwisohn goes on to say that Bing made the following statement on the day of Elvis' death. "I think he was just as important a figure in the entertainment business as we've had in the last half century.....In his time,in his day Elvis was just as important as any of them,if not more so."
posted 09/09/05 03:47 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
That's a good reply, Arne. All the points you made are valid ones. I am of the same generation as Elvis so, to some degree, I suppose I should have been a fan. But the truth is I have never embraced rock. I can see its appeal but because my early influences were in jazz and the great songwriters and their best interpreters ( Crosby,Sinatra, Ella, Ethel Waters, Louis, Billie, Peggy et al ), I couldn't take Presley seriously.
I think probably the best example of what I mean about Elvis is his appearance on the Frank Sinatra show "Welcome Home Elvis." There is a sequence where the two of them are singing "Love Me Tender" and Frank, seeking to make the performance interesting, sings a harmony line. It throws Elvis off completely and he loses pitch in the most amateurish way. He seems ill at ease in Sinatra's presence. Had he appeared in a Crosby show, I'm sure Bing would have adapted to his style. Bing could duet with anybody and make them feel comfortable.
I do agree,of course, with your opinion on his post-death fame which is absolutely sickening. One wonders if he would be as popular today had he lived to be a fat and bloated old man in his '70s. The people who continue to promote him so effectively make sure that only early photos and images of him are used. Very rarely does one see pictures of him in the later years. Still, I am at a loss to understand why he is held up as a role model for so many young people. A man who fell into a state of self-abuse,manic depression and burned himself out at 42 is hardly someone to admire. I hope that doesn't sound too snobbish or holier-than-thou. But it's a point that is all too often overlooked. This man wasted what was an immensely successful life.
You are right,of course, that within the rock'n' roll contect, he was a giant. But I think Bobby Darin - another rock star who died tragically young from causes that were not self-induced, was a much greater talent. Unfortunately, he made the mistake of broadening his musical horizons. And that's probably why he is more or less ignored today. The recent Kevin Spacey biopic did little to alter this situation.
Where I do take heart is in the talents of so many younger performers like Diana Krall, k.d. lang and Michael Buble' who tend to uphold standards of good taste in their performances and choice of material. I would also include yourself in this group of people. Both my wife and I - as well as several friends - enjoy your album "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" which offers remarkably fresh readings of some of our favourite songs. So keep up the good work.
Finally - and this seems rather cruel - but, a few years ago, at Ronnie Scott's club in London, Buddy Rich
( arguably the greatest jazz drummer of all time ) was asked what he thought of Elvis. "Oh, he's the greatest," said Buddy. "Elvis Presley is to singing what Long John Silver is to tap dancing."
posted 09/09/05 07:48 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Ken: Where Elvis is concerned we must understand that he represented a great generational shift in music as well as in style and deportment.
This shift meant that many young singers in the mid 1950s to get "noticed" had to sing Rock and Roll.
Bobby Darin said that he used RandR as a "device" the way Pat Boone did. Once established Darin made his great recordings of standards. His album with "Two Of A Kind" with Johnny Mercer is recognized by all as a true classic.
In the late-60s another great "divide" occured along with the social upheavals of the time and the Viet-Nam war.
Darin was young and singing supper-club standards no longer seemed important. While today we may feel his "broading of his musical horizons" was a mistake Darin did achieve "relevance" with "If I Were A Carpenter" and "Simple Song Of Freedom".
Far from being ignored today there are at least 3 bios on the shelves of book stores and more recordings available by Darin today then ever before.
The Kevin Spacey film may not have been everything we hoped for but there is a film about Darin's life.
One cannot say this about Bing. Best, Ron.
posted 09/09/05 09:20 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Though many seem to feel that a biopic is the end-all ďseal of approvalĒ for a singer or musician, I think most life story films would have been better left unmadeóthe Darin film being a case in pointóand I think one about Bing would probably be a disaster, at least from our collective fansí perspective.
This may be an unpopular sentiment, since many on this board have expressed their desire to see a film about Bingís life made. But the two Jolson movies, and perhaps Coal Minerís Daughter, to name one of few others, were the exceptions, not the rule. Most actors look ridiculous miming along to the well known recordings of well known artists, and the results are usually worse when they do the singing themselves. Would any of us really be satisfied with any actor, no matter how talented, who would take on the role of Bing? Heíd fall short in our eyes and ears in any number of categories: he doesnít look enough like Bing, he doesnít talk like Bing, he doesnít move like Bing, he doesnít project Bingís easygoing demeanor well enough, etc., etc. And what about recreating Bingís interaction with other famous people? Is anyone capable of simulating the spontaneous interplay between Bing and Johnny Mercer, or, more significantly, Bob Hope? No! These people, and many others who played a part in Bingís life, like Bing, were ďoriginalsĒ, and what they had to offer canít be mimicked effectively. Anyone who saw the recent TV movie about Martin and Lewis will know exactly what Iím talking about.
And, if a Bing bio were to be produced by a Hollywood studio, what aspect of his life do you imagine would take center stage? The one thing that people who know nothing about Bing Crosby THINK they know about him: that he ďbeat his kidsĒ. Do we need that myth to be further perpetuated? Unless the screenplay were to be written by Malcolm MacFarlane, and the film produced by Ken Barnes and directed by Gary Giddins, or someone else who knows the real story and has the integrity to do it right despite inevitable pressure from the powers that crank the Hollywood assembly line, then itís highly likely thatís what would happen. Dirt sells . . . more now than when Gary Crosby and Shepherd and Slatzer were slinging it at Bing.
Maybe Iím way off base here; perhaps the right people would be chosen to carry out the project, and all the pieces would fall satisfyingly into place. But that sounds like the type of ending a Hollywood studio hasnít come up with since the days when Bing was still working there.
posted 09/09/05 10:09 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Jon: I would say that having a film on Bing is still preferable to having NO film on Bing.
posted 09/09/05 10:16 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
You're not alone. But I strongly feel that if a film about Bing were flawed by any or all of the above, particularly the negative spin scenario, then we'd all wish it had never been made--and would have to regretfully live with it the rest of our lives, knowing that public perception of Bing would likely be based on that film and not the real deal. I guess I don't subscribe to the popular assertion that there's no such thing as bad publicity.
I'd much rather see a really well done documentary made for PBS or HBO, or the 1978 documentary narrated by Bill Holden released to DVD.
posted 09/09/05 10:47 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Jon: Young people go to the movies. They don't sit home watching documentaries which are a dime a dozen anyway.
If you had a good actor and a good script would you still be against it?
What if the actor had a passable singing voice and wanted to do the singing?
Would you still prefer NO film?
posted 09/09/05 10:53 AM Central Time (US) no email address given
I've long favored a fantasy biopic of Bing and Bob that would masquerade as the 8th Road picture, "Road to Hollywood," somewhat along the lines of the Philco show from January 1947. Bob would replace Al Rinker and we would watch the boys in their attempt to climb the entertainment ladder. Original Bing recordings would be used from the early '30s with an enhanced audio track similar to the Barnes-Moore enhancements of Bing's radio tracks released after Bing's death. I think this could be a big commercial success.
posted 09/09/05 11:02 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I know young people go to the movies and could care less about documentaries. But I'm not just talking about reaching out to a particular audience--I'd prefer quality before ballyhoo, for the long run, rather than having a sub par product circulating indefinitely. Documenteries ARE a dime a doozen these days. But really well-researched, well-produced ones aren't.
As for getting a good, qualified actor/singer who did his homework, and an accurate, well-written script . . . well then, of course, roll 'em! I'll be the first in line to buy a ticket. But the point I was trying to make is that Hollywood has a microscopic batting average when it comes to pulling these elements together successfully, particularly in musical biographies. So many variables have to gel that I think the likelihood of this happening is nearly nonexistent.
posted 09/09/05 11:17 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
As much as I'd like to think of the possibilities of a Bing Biography film being made, I think the realities Jon speaks of are right and that's what would ruin any Bing movie being made today. Did any of you see the CBS horror's produced last year on the "life" of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis? Complete crap. How about the CBS movie on Jackie Gleason, oh, that's right, the evil horrible Jackie Gleason, that's how the movie portrays him, anyone see that mess? Maybe you thought the biopic on The 3 Stooges was a masterpiece? What a clownish amateurish min-informed bunch of baloney that joke of a movie was. They actually had the "Stooges" acting like they did in their movies as being the way they behaved off-screen. Ridiculous. And their facts or portrayal of "facts" were all wrong. Or maybe you thought the Judy Garland ABC move from a few years ago was great? It was the least bad of the bunch I've already mentioned, but once again Judy is protrayed as a caricature of her real self. Every bio-pic made seems amateurish and inaccurate and seems to present the people they're portraying as acting off screen the way they did on screen. One work I can think of to describe all of them, CHEESY. They're all slanted portraying the subject as either an Angel from heaven or a demon from Heck. Al Jolson's bio movies were complete whitewash of his real rather nasty foul mouthed personality who ran thru women like a lawn mower. Jackie's movie portrayed him as the spawn of Satan. Complete trash and lies, all of them.
They're inaccurate simple minded sterotypes of the people they are supposed to be showing in their real lives. I don't think a movie made in today's Nat. Enquirer state of mind, could possibly please any Bing fan. I'm sure they'd portray Bing wielding a cat-o'-nine tails with a mad evil look in his eyes beating kids left and right and kicking his wife down the stairs and wiping his shoes on the dog as he walks in. Anything and everything rotten whether true or not would be how a movie today is made. Until it could be done right WITH CLASS (sonmething not one bio movie has had) and accuracy, I wouldn't want to see a Bing bio movie. Better they colorize ALL his old movies and release them on DVD rather than ruin his image with some bozo wearing a hat and a pipe yelling ba ba ba boo on the front lawn as he kicks the dog and whacks a kid.
posted 09/09/05 10:22 PM Central Time (US) no email address given
I see Terri Knudsen is crediting Elvis with the first music video with "Jailhouse Rock" in 1957. The older folks among us, as well as viewers of the nostalgia channels, will know this is not so. "Music videos" were produced in the United States and Canada during World War II. Of course, the videos were filmed with an optical soundtrack. They were called soundies. Lawrence Welk made one, and so did Bing to sell war bonds.
posted 09/10/05 11:03 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Let's do without a movie. Here's my thoughts: first, who could really play Bing Crosby? Who could sing ANYTHING like him?
Also, do you thing the scriptwriters would focus on the fact that he said his rosary every night and never missed Mass on Sunday, or the alleged child abuse? Which would make more interesting and salacious viewing? Would they care about the truth?
Would they show Bing with no entourage, answering his own phone, writing most of his own letters, always promoting and helping newcomers to the business and making them feel at ease (Victor Borge, Donald O'Connor, Kitty Carlisle, Mary Martin, to name a few), or would we get bouts of drinking, carousing and marital infidelity? I think I know the answer.
Let's just focus on promoting the vast body of work that's out there, with things like Ken Barnes great new 3-CD set to help, and let BING CROSBY play Bing. He was good at it.
posted 09/10/05 11:27 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I have mixed feelings about introducing a TV Movie (or something like it) of Bings life. I have heard the same garbage remarks from people, just as Dieter encountered...Just like all of you, I choose not to judge him by what others may say. I choose not to judge him period. I just love him as an entertainer. Nobody can make a judgment about someone they have not met because of what tabloids or an audience crazed person might say. I would love to see a life story about him, but would be saddened to see it portray him in a demeaning manner. It's a no win situation. Creators of these life stories think the viewers want the dirt, but in my point of view it couldn't be further from my mind. I don't blame Bing for not wanting one to be made, he must have known what they may want do to it and I don't blame him for hating to read the tabloids as well. Who needs it.
posted 09/10/05 12:04 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Howard, I'd have to sadly agree with you - not because I don't think new generations could appreciate Bing's talents if portrayed in a respectful way, but that the filmmakers would, in their goal to rake in money, would put together a sordid tale not worthy to bear Bing's name.
posted 09/10/05 12:57 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Forget about a TV movie - except to be happy there isn't one. They are uniformly terrible, because they are made on an assembly line. The Martin and Lewis movie that Lee mentions was terrible because it followed the same formula, though I detected an attempt to be a little more "artful" as a film. The biggest problem with these TV bios is that , inevitably, they have to show the subject of the film "in action". Trouble is, the actor playing the subject can't perform the way the original did, and it leaves us wanting. Harvey Korman and Buddy Hackett may LOOK like Abbott and Costello, and be able to play a writer's aproximation of what they behaved like offscreen to the audience's satisfaction, but once they try to perform an AandC routine, they are shockingly inept. Damage done: the generation who may have never seen the REAL AandC (or MandL, or the Stooges, or the Beach Boys, etc.) is left wondering what all the fuss was about, if these performers were, indeed, as lousy as portrayed. Pray that Bing is never portrayed in a TV movie.
IN my lifetime, theatrical films have been somewhat better: "Lady Sings The Blues" was a good pic in it's time, but more of a coup for Dianna Ross than for Billie. Recently, the Darin movie was an interesting, entertaining failure. The Ray Charles picture worked because Foxx really did a mind-boggling IMPRESSION of Ray - and because it was the inimitable Ray singing. I think the reason some of us want to see a Bing Biopic is because we are secretly hoping it will stir a revival, ala "The Jolson Story". I think those days are gone. Meantime, the risks are great: it would be more "Mommie Dearest" than "The Incredible Crosby".
posted 09/10/05 02:29 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
We should not let fear paralyze us. It could be a story about the first real multi-media superstar. It could also deal with the trials of dealing with mass adulation and how Bing tried to keep his personal life as private as possible.
posted 09/10/05 02:58 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Ronald, Myself...I am not so much in fear. I would be more like digusted if they were to create a load of garbage and call it his life. If it were to be something like they created in honour of Ray Charles as Arne was saying, then that would be great. It's too bad Bing was not here to take part in the works of something like that the way Ray was in taking part of in the creation of his own life movie before he died. If a life story was in the making about Bing, they should have Kathryn run through everything thoroughly first.
BUT...my opinion doesn't mean a thing anyways. Things happen whether you want them to or not.
posted 09/10/05 03:10 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Things happen whether you want them to or not, or they don't!! I've been in the camp that would love a picture on Crosby, in the vein of "The Aviator" or something like that. Howard Hughes was not portrayed in an idolized manner, but it was a truthful and interesting portrayal, one that got great actors involved. Was Kate Blanchett a caricature? Yes. Was the movie enjoyable anyway? Yes. Does life imitate art with Jude Law portraying the womanizing Errol Flynn in a cameo and then hitting the scandal sheets for similar types of antics? Yes. I'd love to see a high quality film (not TV movie) about Bing, or even one in which Bing figured as one of the minor characters.
Sorry I haven't been around much. I am in Gulfport Mississippi helping with my company's disaster relief efforts. We have 5 tents set up to provide shelter, food, supplies and medical assistance to BellSouth's employees and families. I've been here since Aug 31 and will be here until Sept. 24. There is a communications trailer, which just got set up yesterday, which is why I am writing now. Don't know how much time I will have available since the supply tent is open from 6:30 am to 9:30 pm (or even later for stragglers needing tarps, diapers, formula or clorox to disinfect what's left of their homes).
posted 09/10/05 06:05 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
To Ken Barnes:
Thank you so much for your kind words regarding my CD. I have always appreciated your comments and your compliments mean more to me than you can imagine.
INcidentally, I have a new one out! So, I might as well take this opportunity to let you (and everybody else reading this - I'm no dummy!) know that it's called "Let's Not Be Sensible!", and it features me and a wonderful singer named Maud Hixson. In addition to the title song, there are other tunes on the disc like "When I Take My Sugar To Tea" and "Love Won't Let You Get Away" that we might associate with Bing. More information is available on my website,
And Ken, I must also add my two cents worth, re: "Swinging With Bing" - Absolutely popped my speakers out of the cabinetry with clear, crisp, unbeatable sound. A job well done. Well programmed and well chosen, too. The packaging is of the type that makes a Bing fan proud, and you are to be congratulated on the incredible sales ranking achieved on Amazon over the past month.
posted 09/10/05 08:24 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
This movie of Bing's life has been well debated on this site several times in the past, but it is always good to stir it up again, and perhaps generate some new insights. I still believe the idea is a good one and could be accurately done and still be interesting to the younger folks. But I don't hink we need a movie of Bing's entire life, just from his teens to his stardom, somewhere in the early 30's. Once you get past that point in Bing's life, the drama falls off considerably and you deal with the temptation to portray this new superstar tripping over his own fame to keep the story interesting.
posted 09/10/05 08:55 PM Central Time (US) no email address given
Unfortunately Ken you do sound holier than thou when it comes to describing Elvis as a man. I am not religious but he who has no sin cast the first stone. For example one could argue there is little to admire in a man that apparantly hit his children excessively with the evidence for all to see in the children adulthood, was a womaniser with the best of them when married to his first wife and spiteful to the biggest selling recording artist in history. Is this person Bing - probably not but you should be aware that not everything said about the famous is true or accurate. Bing's probable lack of respect for Elvis was representative of most people his age - so what. Most people at 42 in 1977 would have thought Bing was a hasbeen with no talent. The denunciation of Elvis or Bing as a person deminishes they that pronounce it. I like the best of Bing a great deal ie 1932-35 is my favourite period - I take or leave most of the next 15 years and the early 50's recording rival any poor recordings Elvis ever made. Elvis on the other hand recorded many poor songs and made 30 odd stinker movies - yet the minority of his recordings of an incredible quality and varied - did he record an American Songbook no but did he record incredible rock, blues, country and gospel - yes. Were Bing and Elvis great men as well as great singers - it is not relevant. Its about the music....
|Malcolm Macfarlane, BING magazine||
posted 09/11/05 01:43 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Norman Wolfe's new book about Bing - "Troubadour" - would make a great film if it was adapted to a screenplay.
posted 09/11/05 05:17 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Thanks, Stephen for putting me in my place. Perhaps my comments about Elvis and the self-destructive way he ended his life was irrelevant to the main debate. I agree with you that it's about music not the personal traits of Bing and Elvis. But, on the one hand, I have the advantage of having known Bing personally and worked with him on six albums plus radio and TV. This meant that I spent a lot of time in his company and got to know him and his working habits as well as anyone could. And the impressions I got were of a decent and well-balanced person who was not only a singer of a highly professional standard. His pitch and tone - even in his 70s - was quite remarkable.His phrasing was impeccable and often far more hip than one expected. Which endeared him to musicians. As a person, I never heard him put anyone down. But he needed no encouragement to praise the artists he most admired.
On the other hand, I never met Elvis and can only comment on his values as a singer and ( perhaps this is irrelevant )as an actor. I grant you that his voice is not without its merits. Like Tony Bennett, Elvis often sang in the tenor register but with a baritone quality. In fact, he had a pretty good range spanning over two octaves whereas Bing, even in his heyday, covered little more than an octave and s fifth. In fact, Elvis could go from low G ( in the baritone register ) to high B ( in the tenor register )and even stretch beyond in falsetto to a D flat. In "It's Now Or Never" he goes beyond the conventions of country music and rhythm and blues by hitting a respectable A firmly and in the centre of the note. But this still doesn't make him a better singer than Bing.
Hitting high notes is about as relevant to good singing as Arnold Schwartzenegger's musicles are to good acting. I think the changes that Elvis brought about in popular music in the mid-1950s were more sociological than musical. To me - and I don't mean to be clinical about this or even holier-than-thou - good singing is about intonation and phrasing. Bing accomplished this with naturalness and ease.
And, as the first white singer to successfully merge jazz and popular music, he was ( along with Louis Armstrong ) the most influential singer of the 20th century.
Every singer that followed ( and this includes Elvis )sits at the feet of Crosby. Bing, of course, ( who was genuinely modest about his abilities ) would disagree. But the historical facts are too strong to deny.
I honestly believe that if Bing had not succeeded as a radio and recording artist, and had not been seduced by Hollywood fame and fortune, he would still be remembered historically as the first great white jazz singer.
Now, let's get back to Elvis. There's no denying that there was a raw,animal energy about his early rock and roll recordings. Which is what endeared him to a whole new generation of teenagers who were looking for something that they could call their own. Something there parents disapproved of. And they found it in Elvis. But this was a sociological change not a musical one. This kind of upheaval had been equally common in previous decades to Al Jolson, Bing and Sinatra - just as it was a decade later when the Beatles came along. The success factor had nothing to do with the music.
The only way to judge a singer is on the aesthetic level. And, in my opinion, this begins with his ability to carry a tune. Then it continues with phrasing and finally with an ability to tackle a wide varity of material. Elvis did not have the greatest musical ear. An example ? Just the other night, someone I knew was playing a DVD of Elvis in some concert or other singing the Dusty Springfiled song "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me." This is not the toughest song in the world to sing. Yet his intonation was unbelievably sloppy and inept. Back in the days of the big bands when musicians did all the auditioning, Elvis wouldn't have got past the first four bars before someone shouted "Next."
So he would never have made a dance band singer. "So what ?" I hear you ask, "This is Elvis." Yes, this is Elvis and intonation is one of his shortcomings. Another example ? In 2004, I met with the Hollywood director, George Sidney ( who had directed many fine musicals with such stars as Judy Garland and Sinatra, etc.and how was a pretty good musician himself ). Mr Sidney had directed Elvis in "Viva Las Vegas." He told me that Presley was the most unprofessional performer he had ever worked with.
"The pre-recording sessions for that film," he told me. " Took ages to complete because of his lousy intonation. The sonmgs were not at all difficult technically. A 10-year old child could have sung them. We had a professional singer do them and Elvis put on the headphones and sang along.
With Sinatra or Crosby the whole score would have been recorded in a single session."
So what ? So plenty. If Bing and others of his ilk have never gone out of their way to praise Elvis, it's not because they didn't like him as a person, it's because his standards were not their standards. As Tony Bennett once said in an interview " Elvis was a nice guy. But he was part of the Coca Cola generation and there was nothing musically interesting, to me, in what he did."
So, Stephen, I'm simply agreeing with your point. It's the music that matters. If you like both Elvis and Bing, that's fine. I think it was the great trumpet player and bandleader, Harry James who said " There are only two kinds of music. Good and bad. If you like it, it's good. If you don't, it's bad."
I rest my case.
posted 09/11/05 08:31 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Ken, I have read articles from friends and people who knew him like yourself (and of course Howard's account) and in them, everyone who has given a description of Bing's personality have confirmed what you are saying. These first hand accounts should cancel out the other trash that has been said of him.
It is because of people like you that I am convinced I have chosen a great person as an all time favourite in my books (meaning Bing of course).
I really enjoyed what you wrote in your posting, it was very interesting and informative.
posted 09/11/05 07:08 PM Central Time (US) no email address given
Ken, thank you for your reply. Your comments are interesting and in respect to Elvis's recording habits on Viva Las Vegas (which is a decent soundtrack)enlightening. I would amend my earlier comment by saying that Elvis did in effect record an American Songbook in the sense that it appears to me that rock, country, blues and gospel are as vital to any analysis of american musical history as much as Porter standards. Bing Crosby had a great talent and made the most of it - he could sing, act, compare and sort of dance. Elvis could really only sing (his acting is not as bad as some suggest - but not very good). Any definition of an entertainer and Bing wins hands down - on singing I am not so sure. To me the greatest asset of Elvis is not his voice (which I love) but his interpretaton of songs (the ones that interested him). When I compare them as singers - I always come back to the song Danny Boy. Those that have the recordings of this song should compare both versions. I am not saying Bing did not do a good version (although he did not record all the lyrics of the song) but the performance of Elvis (1976) is so truly heartfelt and interpreted that it is perhaps his greatest performance in my view. Yes this is one song but my personal favourite. Elvis ultimately did waste his talent for whatever reason but what there is to listen to is often the most moving interpreted music one can find. I am sure many Bing fans would have wanted Bing to do this or that but there is no doubt he is the greatest entertainer in modern history (and sadly not recognised as that by the general public or most entertainment historians.
posted 09/12/05 02:22 AM Central Time (US) no email address given
Thanks, Stephen for your response and for pointing out certain performances of Elvis that you feel underline his greatness. I must admit I have not listened to much of his work - so I'm unfamiliar with "Danny Boy." I must say your sincerity shines through when you describe it and I respect what you're saying. I must also add that it's to Elvis' credit that he chose to record something as cherished as that song which,of course, lies far outside of rock 'n' roll.
I also agree with you that blues and rock are a part of the American song book. But, for me, they do not represent the best of it. Perhaps my tastes are too urbane and my sense of professionalism too heightened to accept the lack of real craftsmanship in this music. To my mind, there is no art without craft. People like Bing, Sinatra, Bennett and Torme' are artists because they also possess admirable craftsmanship. These are not gifts shared by all singers.
They are qualities - musical and extra-musical - that separate the great singers from those who are merely good.
I'm afraid that, on the evidence of my own ears, I still maintain that Elvis is not a very good singer. True, he does have a greatness of his own. It would be silly to deny that in view of his success. When I said that he had something in common with Tony Bennett in that he sang sometimes in the tenor range but with baritone quality, I did not mean to compare him Bennett - who is a true artist and a singer of immense talent. And, don't forget that Bennett can also sing the blues when the occasion demands and,like Bing, he has the capacity to work with jazz musicians without sounding like a neophyte.
Because Elvis completely lacked any sense of jazz ( which is also a part of the American songbook and probably America's only real musical contribution to the 20th century ) is this any reason to call him a poor singer ?
No, of course not. Nor is it any reason to decry his lack of sophistication. But on a purely MUSICAL level, he has always been a source of laughter to the musicians and singers I have worked with. Except for Bing who, as I said, never knocked anyone.
But still I can't deny that so many people take him seriously. And there's nothing wrong with that. But why has he inspired so many thousands of copycat imitators who don their capes, white suits, black wigs and sideburns and proceed to tunelessly mumble and moan those awful infantile songs about teddy bears and wooden hearts to constantly indiscriminate audiences ? I'll tell you why. It's because Elvis is the easiest of all singers to impersonate.
You don't need any real talent to approximate his sound and style.
Now, if that sounds derogatory, let me draw your attention to a quote from Elvis himself: "i'm not kiddin' myself. My voice alone is just an ordinary voice. What people come to see is how I use it. If I stand still while I'm singing, I'm dead man. I might as well go back to drivin' a truck."
OK, Stephen, I know that comment could be liked to Bing's remark about everyone believing they could sing like him.
But in the case of Bing, very few people could sing like him. His time and pitch marked him out as an exceptional singer. The same cannot be said of Elvis. Listen to "Love Me Tender." Here is a recording that has sold in vast quantities. Has no one noticed how uncertain uncertain his intonation is throughout this performance ? No, of course not. After all, this is Elvis !
I'm not saying that every record that Bing made was perfect. But his recording career, which lasted longer than Presley's entire life, was distinguished by his impeccable pitch. I would love to be able to say the same about Elvis.
Being a record producer of some international experience, I have heard many stopries of Elvis Presley's recording sessions and someday, if I get the time, I may sit down and write a book on the subject of this man's talent. Before doing so,hoowever, I would make it a point to listen to EVERY Presley record ( including "Danny Boy " ) so that I could make a really balanced judgement on his talent. If it turns out I'm wrong in my current assessment of him, I will certainly say so.
Once again, Stephen, I rest my case.
posted 09/12/05 03:45 AM Central Time (US) no email address given
Yes, Cheryl, when I said Bing was a decent person, it was entirely on the evidence of my spending so much time in his company. In all my years as a record producer, musician and writer, I have never met anyone ( with the exception of Fred Astaire ) who was more considerate to his fellow workers than Bing. In the recording studio, he saw himself not as the big star but as part of a team doing a job of work. That's what he was a team player.
Despite the fact that he didn't read music, he would shape up as fast as the band. Practically every title was nailed down and completed in two takes. If he went to third or a fourth take there was always a good reason for it - and usually it wasn't because of him. All of the six albums
I did with him,came in under budget and under scedule. The record companies loved him as did all the musicians.
Working with Bing spoiled us for working with most other singers who take ages in the studio to get it right. Bing was not only good to work with, he was extremely pleasant and always in good humour.
posted 09/12/05 08:39 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Ken, did you do your recording sessions with Bing in the morning? He told me once that he liked to record in the morning, because he thought his voice was better at that time of day.
posted 09/12/05 12:51 PM Central Time (US) no email address given
Good to hear from you. Yes, all of Bing's sessions took place in the mornings. Usually 10am till 1 pm. The schedule in each session was always four titles. In one of his letters to me, he wrote to me that he could do six titles if I wanted them. Well, of course, I knew he could.
But I wrote back and told him that I had a large orchestra to consider. He understood.
However, every session was completed usually about 30 or 40 minutes ahead of schedule. That was Bing. Ever the professional.
posted 09/12/05 03:37 PM Central Time (US) no email address given
Ken, I admire your work with Bing and his reissues greatly. I canít thank you enough. that said, I cannot contain how disturbing I find the below statements;
"Because Elvis completely lacked any sense of jazz (which is also a part of the American songbook and probably America's only real musical contribution to the 20th century."
"I also agree with you that blues and rock are a part of the American song book. But, for me, they do not represent the best of it. Perhaps my tastes are too urbane and my sense of professionalism too heightened to accept the lack of real craftsmanship in this music."
Overlooking the importance of the early blues from the American south removes an irreplaceable chunk from the history of American jazz, and classic pop. The deep well of the blues is a font from which the music we hold so highly drank and grew. Without the blues, these forms would be banal, deformed shells at best. Is blues the only tributary feeding jazz and classic pop? Any informed individual must answer "No." However, I suggest that the blues is THE most essential ingredient in the development of the aforementioned forms, and is quite irreplaceable not only as an influence, but as an art in and of itself. Further, the suggestion that blues musicians lack or lacked real craft and artistry comes off more as bourgeois than urbane. I think such statements put us one step closer to the vile, warped notion of rural black musicians as feral beasts, gripped by a uncontrollable urge to act out their primitive passions in sound. Iím sure, Ken, that this is not your opinion, but I argue that you will find many an artisan and consummate musician among players of the blues, past and present (though my own artistic sensibilities skew me towards past), and many a professionals as well.
Also, though I am not particularly enthralled by 'rock' music (or Elvis) in most of its myriad forms, I am conscious that much of my opinion derives largely from my age, and somewhat privileged and insulated station in life, not necessarily from an evenhanded assessment of the music. I hope that such an awareness prevents me from ever sinking into a biased, curmudgeonly state. Of course the music industry inundates us with what I can safely call cynical pop music garbage, but despite ebbs and flows in quantity, it has always been thus. I disagree with the suggestion that the only worthy musical contribution from the US has been jazz.
posted 09/12/05 03:42 PM Central Time (US) no email address given
Thanks, Harley for your response to my comments. I think I must have expressed myself badly on the subject of the blues because it is, in and of itself, the bedrock of jazz.
I'm a great admirer of the classic blues artists of the early part of the 20th century. Blues singers like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey stand high in my estimation. The early ragtime piano rolls of Scott Joplin are still valid and still make fascinating exercises for modern-day pianos students. So, in that sense, I'm very much a tradionalist.
But I also believe in progress and evolution. If music had remained static, we would not have had the superb compositions of Jerome Kern ( Consider the 1914 "They Didn't Believe Me" - which broke 32 bar format of songwriting, "The Song Is you" with it's astonishing harmonic changes and "All The Things You Are" with its circle of fifths ). We would not have had Louis Armstrong or Earl Hines or Art Tatum. Think of the lyrics of Porter, Hart and Johnny Mercer. Then look at the progress of popular singing - first in Bing's hands, then in Sinatra's. Ponder on the evolution of orchestration through artists like Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson right on to Nelson Riddle and Billy May. Look at Billie Holiday, with a range of little more than an octave, she created a singing style all her own which was not unrelated to the blues.
As popular msuic progressed through the 1920s,'30s and '40s, it threw up all manner of artists, styles and innovations until, by the 1950s, it had reached such a level of sophistication and invention ( and here, I'm referring to the albums of Sinatra and Ridddle and Mel Torme'and Marty Paich ) that the future looked wonderful and
creatively inviting. Then along came rock and roll which, I agree, was also derivative of the blues. And with it came Elvis Presley who, with his raw combination of hillbilly
music and country blues, ushered in the age of the amateur.
It was no longer necessary for singers to sing in tune or arrangers to create challenging scores that were a pleasure to play. Rock 'n' roll was here and we were confronted with the tunnel at the end of the light. And today, some 50 years later, rock is still in that tunnel.
If I sound like an old curmudgeon that's too bad. Happily,however, I keep encoountering young people who regard rock and singers of Elvis' ilk as "cornball." There are young performers around today who have chosen to express themselves in a more challenging way with more expressive material. Diana Krall ( the nearest thing today to Peggy Lee ), Madeleine Peyroux, Peter Cincotti and Michael Buble' ( who may become a great singer if stops trying to emulate Sinatra ). All of these artists - and a good many others on today's scene - bring pleasure to my ears. And all of this intersting music derives in part from the blues.
So, Harley, as passionate as you are about the origins of jazz and popular music, please spare a thought for the many great artists and styles that have followed. Music, like everything else, is an evolutionary process. Every period
throws up something worthwhile that contributes to the mix.
But I don't like amateurism or musical crudeness. There are too many beautiful and interesting sounds around for me to embrace something I don't like. And just to answer one final point about jazz being the only worthy musical contribution that the U.S. has made, let me say this.
Most of the music from the last two hundred years
( including the diatonic scale )originated in Europe and Africa. It made its way into America by various routes until, in the 20th century, America gave it back to the world in a variety of exciting forms, the most valuable of which was known as jazz. And jazz is a peculiarly American form of music whiich is the basis of all that is finest in modern popular music.
That's all folks.
posted 09/13/05 06:29 PM Central Time (US) no email address given
Thanks for your response. Iím glad, and not surprised, that you note the eminence of blues in jazz and classic pop. I AM passionate about the origins of blues and jazz, etc. but you also may have noticed, I am communicating with you on the Bing Crosby message board. You donít have to explain the evolution of American music in the first half of the 20th century to me, nor sell me on pinnacles such as the Sinatra/Riddle Torme/Paich collaborations, as my shelves are literally bursting with these things. My points were merely that 1. There is plenty of artistry and craftsmanship in blues and rock (even if weíre not rock fans, and though I agree that the early Elvis age was very crude), and 2. That blues, country (Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams Sr!), soul (Sam Cooke!), funk and some other forms are valid and valuable offerings from the olí USA, even if we donít enjoy some of them personally. Now I think we are probably getting a lot closer to agreement, and I hope you concur. In fact let me take advantage of your (likely) jovial mood to free-associate some random names; Bing, Connie Boswell, Peggy Lee, Radio transcriptions. Thanks, thatís all.
posted 09/15/05 08:51 PM Central Time (US) no email address given
Getting back to a Crosby Hope biopic that would surely be music and laughs to our ears. Any suggestions on whom might take on such challenging roles among todays stables of stars.And which present day starlet would play D.Lamour?
posted 09/17/05 09:27 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Elvis, like Marlon Brando and James Dean, represented the values and attitudes of young Americans during the conservative 1950s. Even today songs like "Jailhouse Rock" and "Heartbreak Hotel" sound modern. As his life story reads like a Greek tragedy, future generations will continue to idolize Presley as the King of Rock 'n' Roll. I really don't think there would be much interest in a Bing biopic, except from his small legion of fans. When I played some early numbers like "An Apple for the Teacher" to the class, they couldn't see ANYTHING worthwhile in the music. Sad but true.
posted 09/18/05 04:07 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I would submit the opinion, based on my own experience, that "Jailhouse Rock" and "Heartbreak Hotel" do NOT sound "modern" to today's kids. They sound dated as Hell. But, they DO sound more familiar, because, as Rock n Roll tunes, the style is a few decades more FAMILIAR to them. Hence, easier to relate to.
When you play "Apple For The Teacher" to "The class" (what class? What are you teaching? History? Music?) are you giving the kids any sense of the context of the times? are you explaining to them the fact that recordings made nearly 70 years ago were made under totally different conditions (technologically, culturally, socially) than records made during their lifetimes? Do you explain what jazz is, how it evolved, and how it merged with Pop to create a musical tradition that was special to the first half of the twentieth century? Did you explain to them that the singer you played was born over 100 years ago, has been dead for over a quarter-century, and still had the top-selling jazz CD on the Amazon charts last month (some "small legion")?
You can't just toss this stuff at kids. If they've never experienced it, you need to "teach".
posted 09/18/05 07:39 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
In the 'nineties I passed a year or two teaching radio production to teenage students. They ran a campus radio station but also had to produce, for assessment, radio shows that were not to their own tastes. In general they responded very well. If put on the defensive, certainly, they would see no further than the various 'sub-genres' that went with peer acceptance and current styles. If given an excuse to consider earlier kinds of popular music, however, they often knew more about them than they pretended. Once they got to work, they could be surprisingly enthusiastic. Placing earlier styles in their social and historical context did usually help them rationalise the 'unreal'lyrics and the unfamiliar musical approches.
Of course I generalise. There were always students who were limited in the range they could encompass; others who knew much more about earlier styles through parental or grandparental appreciation. To relate this to Bing - as I'm aware I should - I can never remember playing any of his recordings to anyone who didn't concede that he had a very good voice, even if they felt compelled to add 'of its type'.
posted 09/18/05 05:22 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Another thing, since Ann singled out the recording "An Apple For The Teacher"....
One of the biggest hurdles to surmount when dealing with putting this music in context for younger audiences is in the matter of lyrics. Those who view music through a "rock" sensibility and aesthetic will have a HUGE problem getting past the notion that the song spends its entire running time dealing with the subject of bringing an apple to the teacher, in order to learn about romance, etc. This will seem insurmountably silly to people who are used to lyrics that are often more "to the point", as regards love and sex, or that deal with more substantial issues. To get past that, I would suggest to them that they should focus on the way the performers approach the material: The incomparably hot guitar work running through the entire piece, the way jazz vocal techniques affect the rhythmical approach of the singers, the trumpet work behind the vocal, and the fact that the song was written for a specific scene in a movie, hence the unusual lyric. Once again, you can't just throw unfamiliar historical material at youngsters. That's just asking for disappointment.
posted 09/18/05 08:10 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
If you are presenting poetry or a well known novel like "catcher in the rye" to students...they have to dissect it to find out what the story means and how you feel about it, or what the writer was trying to unveil to the reader. The same could be done in a song of Bing's generation. We had fabulous teachers in my generation (the 80's when rock was hard and heavy) who used poems, books and MUSIC (music from the 30's to the 70's) as part of their curriculum. They showed us how a song was like a poem and that you had to really listen to find the story being told. To ignore the tune and just listen. It was like being introduced to music all over again. I was now listening for the story, not how cool the guitar sounded or the drums...
I believe this generation has trouble because they are not being taught how to interpret anything by themselves. Everything is now about image.
I know several young people who had graduated highschool barely able to read aloud, let alone know any big words.
So I was thinking...if teachers use it in the same manner as a book, maybe the students will start to appreciate it more if they are taught to look deeper in to the meaning behind it. So I think that you are making a noble attempt Ann. If everyone just gives up and doesn't offer it to them because you do not think they will understand it, then they will never learn how to appreciate it and it will be lost and forgotten.
This is only my opinion, maybe someone may find it insightful????Or not.
posted 09/18/05 08:31 PM Central Time (US) no email address given
Ann (and Arne), I would also argue that a more appropriate song would be something a bit more hot, like "Dinah," or "Sweet Gerogia Brown," despite the fact that these are OLDER than "An Apple..." I love Connie Boswell more than anybody, but that particular song COULD be construed as a bit corny, despite the fact that I love it. "Basin Street Blues," another Boswell/Crosby duet may also be more succesful. Other suggestions:
Your Socks Don't Match (w. Louis Jordan)
Now You Has Jazz (w. Louis Armstrong)
True Love (w. Grace Kelly, timeless pop)
Gone Fishin' (w. Louis Armstrong)