View From Lodi, CA: Crosby and Christmas—A Seven-Decade Tradition


Of the hundreds of Christmas albums
I have, the one I play most often is Bing Crosby`s

The Christmas Songs

that features wartime radio transcriptions from his
various Christmas broadcasts between 1942-46.

And during these past two
Christmases, with our fighting men and women in

Iraq
and

Afghanistan
, the sound
of Crosby`s reassuring voice when he sent best wishes to
the soldiers fighting in World War II comforts me more
than any words coming out of Washington, D.C.

The Christmas Song disc
contains all the

holiday tunes
Crosby
made favorites including his three biggest smash gold
record hits: “White
Christmas,
” “Silent
Night
,” and “I`ll
Be Home for Christmas
“.

The disc has little gems included
like renowned actor

Orson Welles
, one of
Crosby`s Kraft Music Hall guests, commented during some
on stage patter:

“White Christmas has become
something of a classic and no one sings it quite like
you.”

What an understatement!

And for me, an altar boy zillions
years ago at the

Church of the Good Shepherd

where Crosby faithfully attended Sunday Mass, I derive
untold pleasure from his brief 1:26 version of Adestes
Fideles

sung in Latin
.

Crosby and Christmas have gone hand
in hand since 1936 when Bing began his annual December

radio show
that lasted
until 1962.

A year before his radio broadcasts
ended, Crosby`s Christmas television shows began. Those
aired from 1961 until he died in 1977.

Then there are the Crosby Christmas
movies including his two most famous,

“The Bells of St. Mary`s”

and

“White Christmas.”

Before I started researching this
column, I knew the

highlights
of Crosby`s
career. But with the invaluable assistance of the
Internet, I was able to review Crosby`s four and a half
decades of superstardom in just a few hours.

My conclusion: Crosby`s
accomplishments as an entertainer will never be matched.

As Fortune Magazine wrote in
1947,

“Crosby is head man in
every branch of American entertainment but sidewalk
magic. First in films, first on the air and first on the
phonographs of his country men.”

If Fortune had written its article
in 1957, by which time Crosby had launched his
television career, the magazine could have added the
small screen to his successes.

A few highlights from Crosby`s
career include

having recorded over 1,700 songs
—with
23 gold records. Crosby sold so many records on so many
labels distributed in so many countries that no one
really knows the total.

Bing charted more number one hits
than any artist. A total of 42 of his singles and albums
went to the top. In comparison, Paul McCartney—with or
without the

Beatles
—had 31 and
Elvis, 18.

“White Christmas” hit number
one in three different years—1942, 1945 and 1947.

Even though some of Crosby`s music
has been out of print for sixty years, more than 100 of
his

compact discs
are
currently available.

Also, Crosby

starred
in more than 55
full-length movies 23 of which were in the top ten at
the box office during the year of their release. Bing
was among the

leading ten film stars

for 15 years and for five straight years from 1944-48,
he ranked number one.

During these Christmas days, you
will hear Crosby songs wherever you go.

This year, pay special attention to
I`ll
Be Home for Christmas
“—the most requested
song at U.S.O. shows in Europe and the Pacific during
World War II—and keep a good thought for our
troops—including our friend

Allan Wall
.

Recalling the song`s impact on
military morale, the 1981

Reader`s Digest Merry Christmas
Song Book
, noted that:

“In 1943 the world was at
war, and many thousands of American men and women in the
service would be spending Christmas far from home. As a
special gift to them and their families came this
lovely, tender ballad, recorded by Bing Crosby.”

Here, as my Christmas gift to you, are the simple lyrics to Crosby`s
unforgettable song:


I`ll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe

And presents on the tree

Christmas Eve will find me

Where the love light gleams

I`ll be home for Christmas

If only in my dreams

I`ll be home for Christmas

You can plan on me

Please have snow and mistletoe

And presents on the tree

Christmas Eve will find me

Where the love light gleams

I`ll be home for Christmas

If only in my dreams.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.