Bing Crosby vs. Frank Sinatra -- contemporary stature.

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Garbanzo, Dec 11, 2014.

  1. Garbanzo

    Garbanzo New Member Thread Starter

    My wife and I watched the recent American Masters on Bing Crosby, and we both enjoyed it very much. But we remarked to one another that we must have been among the youngest people watching the show (we are both in their 40s). We're not particular Crosby fans, but we certainly know his work. (While we are both pretty hip for middle-aged people, we are more aware of early and mid-20th century pop culture than are most Gen X-ers -- we watch a lot of TCM).

    I found myself wondering about the relative stature today of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. (Christmas music is the one exception, where Bing still rules). I doubted any of my friends would identify as a Crosby fan, while I'm sure plenty of them like Sinatra. There's a Sirius XM channel devoted to Sinatra, but I can't imagine one for Crosby. I checked Facebook, and my suspicions were confirmed: 4 million Facebookers "like" Sinatra, and only 200,000 "like" Crosby. Why this disparity among the two most popular singers of their era?

    Being a social scientist, I came up with a few hypotheses. Let me know what you think:

    1. The most obvious -- Sinatra is a more contemporary figure, one who is within the living memory of most adults. He was born in 1915 and died in 1998, while Crosby was born in 1903 and died in 1977. Crosby's last non-Christmas hits were in the late 1950s, while Sinatra's Duets albums came out during the Clinton Administration. Even Crosby devotees would admit their icon did his best work early on, while Sinatra reached his artistic peak in the 1950s and 1960s.

    2. Sinatra seems to have been a more active figure in his later years, often milking his "icon" status for all it was worth -- "My Way," "New York, New York," the arena concerts, the Reagan connection, "Duets." It was not his best work, but Baby Boomers and Gen-X-ers certainly knew he was around. I don't think Crosby was nearly as visible in the 1960s and 1970s as Sinatra would be later -- my impression is that his public presence was mostly orange juice commercials and the occasional variety show. I wasn't around then, so I could be wrong. One of the few Crosby moments known to younger people -- the Christmas duet with David Bowie -- was exactly the sort of "aging icon" moment Sinatra performed all the time.

    3. Sinatra is a more "usable" figure than Crosby. He's seen as having been sexy and cool, while Crosby isn't. Every few years brings a Michael Buble or Harry Connick Jr., who patterns himself after Ol' Blue Eyes. Sinatra's "Rat Pack" lifestyle may have mostly kitsch appeal these days, but that's better than no appeal at all. Even Sinatra's records seem louder and brassier -- more "modern" -- than Crosby's.

    4. Sinatra simply produced more work of a lasting quality. While he was no singer-songwriter, he pioneered the album-length statement, and he was known for his emotional interpretations of lyrics. Crosby was a fine interpreter as well, but he also became known for grinding out work of indifferent quality. Neither man was a great actor, but "From Here to Eternity" and "The Manchurian Candidate" outweigh the "Road" pictures.

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Garbanzo

    Garbanzo New Member Thread Starter

    I also thought about comparing Crosby to Louis Armstrong (who has over a million "likes", but the explanations were too obvious. People (regrettably) still love "What a Wonderful World." Less depressingly, Pops has two constituencies that will always celebrate his memory -- jazz lovers and the city of New Orleans.
     
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  3. Garbanzo

    Garbanzo New Member Thread Starter

    amazingly, Al Jolson has 12,000 likes on Facebook. Don't know who those people would be.
     
  4. jjhunsecker

    jjhunsecker Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York city
    I think Sinatra still resonates. He was and is seen as "cool", and his "Rat Pack" image always had an anti-Establishment edge (even though Sinatra himself become an "insider"), and in a lot of his films, he was presented as a rebel against society and it's rules (think "From Here to Eternity", "Some Came Running", "Man with the Golden Arm", even "The Manchurian Candidate") . Crosby, on the other hand, was always a fatherly figure, calming and reasonable, and fitting in perfectly with society (think of all his priest roles, or "White Christmas") . Both men are great artists, with wonderful voices, but their images outside of the music has influenced current perceptions of their work.
     
  5. jimac51

    jimac51 A mythical beast.

    Location:
    Allentown,pa.
    I've stayed away from the American Masters doc on Crosby as reviews seem to accentuate the positive a bit too positive. Many of the points made in the inital post hold water.Add to that:
    Not only was Frank in the public eye late in his career with concert appearances,the opposite holds true for Der Bingle.He was an insular artist:the public knew of him through the filter of movies,recordings and radio.And while some of that radio was live,it was still tightly scripted and Bing was first to embrace the ability to record rather than perfrom live.There is no Live At The Sands for Crosby.No worldwide tours,traveling with full orchestra and polishing up the Mary Janes to perform in person.This is another example of how cool and detached he could be,as opposed to Frank's globetrotting to see the masses.
    Both Crosby and Sinatra never fully embraced TV the way Como far exceeded them in that medium.Sure,Crosby was an occasional guest and had specials,but never could gain foothold on a weekly basis the way Como just seemed to glide into the living room.Crosby overdressed for TV,as dds Sinatra,while Como did his sweater thing years before Mister Rogers.Hard to invite one into your living room if the guest is gussied up more than you are.Crosby would eventually find a toehold on ABC's Hollywod Palace,but that even seemed like Grandpop showcasing some of the youngin acts for Mon & Dad(the kids were out on Sat. night and away from the set).And,quick,try and remember one talk show where Crosby showed up.IMDB lists less than a dozen occasions.
    Crosby hit his peak just as World War II was winding down.It was if America said:It's OK,old timer,we're back.We got this."And Crosby pretty much answered:"Fine.If you need me,I'll be on the golf course and later diving into my money bin a la Uncle Scrooge.Ta ta!" So pretty much someone would have to be in their '80s today to think of Crosby as the multimedia superstar he once was.
     
  6. EasterEverywhere

    EasterEverywhere Forum Resident

    Location:
    Albuquerque
    Enrico Caruso has 35,732 likes on Facebook as of today.
     
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  7. zen

    zen Forum Resident

    [​IMG] It's that time again... the Swooner vs. the Crooner!
     
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  8. rxcory

    rxcory Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    Can't we just enjoy them both? Sheesh.
     
  9. Jason W

    Jason W Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mill Valley, CA
    Bing was super cool- but in the late 1920's. He's been called the Mick Jagger of the hot jazz era, famous for scat-singing and carousing the speak-easy scene. But his career evolved into romantic ballads and -especially- sentimental support during the Depression and WWII. Afterwards, I believe people wanted to move on and forget about those hard years. Bing was too much of a reminder of darker times. His style ultimately didn't stay fresh for the post-war and beyond audience. He was literally older and became more of a fatherly figure in films/media (hosting specials and humorously playing the fading mentor to the Rat Pack he had inspired). Those younger bucks, on the other hand, were riding the post-war wave and embodied a new sense of energy, optimism, and "cool".

    Personally, I've never connected with the Rat Pack musically, preferring those hot jazz sides Bing cut with Bix, Eddie Lang, Mills Brothers, and others in the 20s and early 30s. I enjoy his sense of humor and the scatting tunes are fun. For me as a listener, those early tracks sound more sincere. When I hear the post-war stuff (by most of them- Bing included) I can't help but picture them snapping their fingers and putting on a "cool" affect with often bombastic brass accompaniment (of course, there are exceptions). Still, I can see how the culture kept moving and the scope of Bing's career didn't remain in the public consciousness. The doc film will address other nuances of that story.
     
  10. Garbanzo

    Garbanzo New Member Thread Starter

    Jimac,

    The American Masters documentary basically portrays Crosby as being semi-retired in the 1960s and 1970s, living part-time in Northern California, and focused on his second family. It quotes him as complaining that he was too old to get good movie roles, and fretting that doing too much TV would make him overexposed. The film does feature a few clips from his TV specials of the era.

    I don't think Perry Como is better remembered than Bing Crosby -- he has 140,000 Facebook likes to Crosby's 278,000. He did have more of a career in the 1960s, with a TV show that ran until 1966 and some charting hits. Like Crosby, Como had numerous Christmas hits, and like Sinatra, he performed much better on the Adult Contemporary charts than in the Hot 100. (Between all the Christmas cheer and the easy-listening hits, I suspect most of the people who bought Como records in the 1960s are now dead. My mother is an exception). Unlike Crosby or Sinatra, Como failed to become a movie star.
     
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  11. getitgoin

    getitgoin Forum Resident

    Location:
    LA, CA, US
    Crosby never made the move from ballads to up-tempo swingers like Sinatra did when he moved to Capitol in the 50's.
    Had Sinatra stayed with Axel Stordahl arranging everything he may be less popular today.
     
  12. Mylene

    Mylene Forum Resident

    My mother told me the nice girls loved Bing, the bad girls loved Frankie.
     
  13. Jason W

    Jason W Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mill Valley, CA
    in case you can't picture the young jazz Bing, here's a cool short clip from a '31 film about the roaring 20s. no scat in this tune, but fun energy!

     
  14. frankfan1

    frankfan1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Western Tennessee
    Yeah...I can't compare the incomparable.

    I love them both.
     
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  15. Jason W

    Jason W Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mill Valley, CA
    good point - kind of apples and oranges. but the initial question was interesting about why the culture may hold on to some artists more than others.
     
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  16. gregorya

    gregorya Forum Resident

    Is your mother calling my mother a bad girl????...... ;)
     
  17. Mylene

    Mylene Forum Resident

    Only if she loved him during the war years :p
     
  18. sons of nothing

    sons of nothing Forum Resident

    Location:
    Illinois
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  19. Mylene

    Mylene Forum Resident

    Bing had a really soft voice. Without the technology of the day he would have struggled.
     
  20. EasterEverywhere

    EasterEverywhere Forum Resident

    Location:
    Albuquerque
    Wasn't this originally issued on the ultra-budget Springboard label?
     
  21. Jason W

    Jason W Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mill Valley, CA
    the 1st US edition was on Amos Records, reissued I think on Springboard.
     
  22. sons of nothing

    sons of nothing Forum Resident

    Location:
    Illinois

    I'm not too sure. If you look at the bottom left of the art, you'll see John crying.
     
  23. Mylene

    Mylene Forum Resident

    I think it was on EMI in Australia. You used to see the Hey Jude! Hey Bing LP is thrift shops everywhere.

    EDIT: I googled it and it was originally on London here then reissued on Bell (through Polygram)
     
  24. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Chevelle Ma Belle

    Location:
    Mid Atlantic
    Actually Crosby did, most directly with Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings. Unfortunately Bregman was no Riddle and ruined some nice singing by Bing with nervous empty arrangements. Bing did a more successful up tempo record with Clooney in Fancy Meeting You Here. The problem as noted before is that Bing was in his late 50s by the time the LP came into favor. Sinatra's musical reputation rests in large part today on the series of stellar LPs he made in the 50s and 60s. Sinatra himself was fading when he reached his late 50s in the early 70s. It is also true that Bing's mellow voice is stylistically out of favor with contemporary audiences and production values.
     
  25. Steve Carras

    Steve Carras Forum Resident

    Location:
    Whittier,CA USA
    I love Bing the most, but do wish Happy birthday to Frankie.... Karen Carpenter and Rudy Vallee ...two were two TRUE sweet pure and easy voices..kinda like Benny Goodman and rtie Shaw, then Glenn Miller and Kay Kyser in the middle, then Guy Lombardo and Sammy Kaye at the far opposite. :D
     
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