Modern pop culture has a tendency to see Bing Crosby as "that guy who comes out once a year to sing 'White Christmas.'" The new installment of the American Masters series, Bing Crosby Rediscovered, seeks to change that, introducing Crosby to a new audience while reintroducing him to those who remember him from before. It's more than just an exercise in nostalgia, it's a re-examination of Crosby's life and his place in the cultural history of the United States.
We come to see Crosby as what he was, the first true multi-media superstar, dominating the worlds of radio, film, and records. We learn about his early career as part of bandleader Paul Whitman's Rhythm Boys, and how he leapfrogged from that position to being signed by CBS to what was then the most lucrative contract in the history of radio.
The documentary examines his place as an artistic pioneer, being one of the first to really explore the musical implications of using microphones, and how he led the way as American popular music came of age.
The special is written, directed, and produced by Robert Trachtenburg and narrated by Stanley Tucci. It features footage taken from his films and other video taken throughout his life, as well as recordings of old interviews given by himself and others who are no longer with us, illuminating events that may not have been well understood without these testimonials. It also features interviews about Crosby from people such as singer Tony Bennet, producer Ken Barnes, and Crosby's children Mary, Nathaniel, and Harry as well as his second wife Kathy.
We examine his place as the best-selling recording artist of all time, still holding the record against Elvis and The Beatles. We also get glimpses into his personal life: his troubled first marriage and relationships with those children, his second marriage resulting in a second family. Also discussed are the allegations of abuse leveled by his son Gary in a 1987 book.
In short, we are given a full glimpse of Crosby as an artist, as a man, as an icon. It's a good way to revisit an earlier time, and share an American institution with a new generation.
Bing Crosby Rediscovered airs as part of the American Masters series Tues., Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. on KIXE Channel 9.
Chad Grayson has been a gas station attendant, sold video games over the phone, and even was the person who cuts the mold off the cheese in the cheese factory, but spent most of his career as a middle school Language Arts and History teacher. He is now a full-time stay at home dad and writer. You can find him on twitter at @chadgrayson and on his blog at cegrayson.wordpress.com.