Books: Bada Bing!

A terrific new biography recalls Crosby's jazz roots

Bing Crosby--a hipster? Sure, he may have cut more No. 1 singles than the Beatles, but was the smoothly affable elder statesman of Eisenhower-era middle-brow pop ever really...cool? You bet. In Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams--The Early Years, 1903-1940 (Little, Brown; 728 pages; $30), critic Gary Giddins takes a fresh and compelling look at the forgotten first half of Crosby's long career, turning the clock back to the Roaring Twenties to show how Crosby started out as a hard-drinking, hard-swinging jazzman whose nonchalant way with a song was universally regarded, even in Harlem, as the height of hipness.

The young...

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