Swinging On A Star: Bing Crosby Book Party w/ Gary Giddins
On this evening, the esteemed critic-essayist-historian Gary Giddins comes to the National Jazz Museum in Harlem to present music by Bing Crosby and to discuss Swinging On A Star: The War Years, 1940-1946, the immersive second installment of his prospective three-volume biography of Bing Crosby. It appears seventeen years after the critically lauded Pocketful of Dreams: The Early Years, 1903-1940.
In that book, Giddins drew on hundreds of interviews, unpublished manuscripts, and various troves of clips and memorabilia to trace Crosby’s ascendant career arc from the early 1920s, when this bright but indifferent student in Spokane, Washington, gave up the law to try his luck on the West Coast vaudeville circuit, until the end of the 1930s, when Crosby — whose recordings during the late ’20s with Paul Whiteman and the early ’30s as a solo artist had a transformational impact on American singing — was a multi-platinum recording artist, a leading man of the first decade of talking pictures, and an in-demand star of radio during the efflorescent years of network radio.
Giddins authored four other books as Swinging On A Star took shape, while also running the Leon Levy Center of Biography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York from 2009 to 2014. In 2008, he offered Visions in Jazz, comprising 79 elegant, interwoven biographical essays about the idiom’s master practitioners from turn-of-the-century minstrelsy to the cutting edge of the ’90s and ’00s. In 2009, W.W. Norton published Jazz, an authoritative textbook that he co-authored with historian Scott DeVeaux. Meanwhile, Giddins also assembled two separate volumes of film writings, Natural Selection and Morning Shadows.
During these years, Crosby’s second wife, Kathryn Crosby, gave Giddins access to Crosby’s heretofore unexplored personal correspondence, private journals and business records. Throughout Swinging On A Star, Giddins incorporates this information and further first-person testimonies to delve deeply into the psychological nuances of Crosby’s complex intra-family relationships with his first wife and their four children; his hard-line negotiating postures towards radio sponsors and film moguls; and his diaristic recountings of the harrowing Fall 1944 USO tour in France when he performed for U.S. troops within shouting distance of the battlefields.
The evening will be hosted by writer, Ted Panken.