Valentines Day each February, makes us think of love and romance. But what is romance without wonderful songs that speak of love? And who better to sing those songs than the great crooners of the recent past.
Although the golden age of crooners is a sweet memory for most, fortunately we still have the recordings and videos of their television shows and movies. These shows and films feature many of the great singers who made that form of music so memorable.
Three of the most famous and well known crooners of the past are Bing Crosby, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
Born Harry Lillis Crosby on May 3, 1903 in Washington State, Bing Crosby was undeniably the ultimate crooner of them all. Beginning his career in vaudeville, Crosby was one of the leading multi-media stars from 1934 until 1954. His active career lasted over 50 years.
“His bass-baritone voice and singing style was unique as he “bent” notes and used “off-tone” phrasing from his knowledge and appreciation of the jazz idiom, emphasizing phrasing to make lyrics ring true, Musicologist J.T.H. Mize, said. “Crosby could melt a tone away, scoop it flat and slide up to the eventual pitch as a glissando, sometimes sting a note right on the button and take diphthongs for long musical rides.”
His influence was notable in all phases of the entertainment industry including recording, stage, radio, TV and films. He appeared in over 70 motion pictures winning an academy award for his role in “Going My Way” in 1944. His awards, accolades and honors are too numerous to mention. He died October 14, 1977 at age 74.
Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti on June 7, 1917 in Steubenville, Ohio to Italian parents. He was equally at home in stage, nightclubs, recordings, TV and motion pictures. Martin was nicknamed the “King of Cool,” largely because his style of performance seemed so laid-back and easy. Martin dropped out of high school early and had numerous jobs including boxing. He started singing with local bands. His good looks, easy manner and smooth singing voice made him a sure hit. His early singing could be described as a crooning style. After a short stint in the U.S. Army during World War II he began singing in East Coast nightclubs.
A chance meeting with comedian Jerry Lewis led to the very successful team of Martin & Lewis. Some people called them “the organ grinder and the monkey.” They appeared on many TV shows including the Ed Sullivan Show. After the breakup with Lewis, Martin had a successful film career and a long-running TV variety show. His singing style was influenced by Harry Mills of the Mills Brothers, Bing Crosby and Perry Como. Martin died December 25, 1995 at age 78.
Francis Albert Sinatra was born December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Hearing Bing Crosby on the radio made him decide to become a singer. His career started when he sang in New Jersey nightclubs. Harry James heard him and asked him to join his band. Sinatra later joined the Tommy Dorsey orchestra and there he established himself as a top-notch band singer. He rapidly became the first teen idol attracting hysterical bobby-soxers at his performances which included the popular weekly “Hit Parade.” Sinatra proved his acting prowess winning an Oscar in 1954 in From Here To Eternity.
In the 50s and 60s he was a major attraction in Las Vegas. He, along with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr., formed the core of the famous “Rat Pack.” Sinatra had many hits and is particularly recognized for his impeccable musical phrasing. He died May 14, 1998 at age 82.
A poet wrote, “Life is a song – Love is the music.” These crooners and others have influenced lovers for decades with their talent – their legacy to music and love will certainly live on.