Bing Crosby and The Little Donkey

Bing Crosby The Crooner

Bing Crosby, born Harry Lillis Crosby,  was made famous through the medium of radio. He made his first major recording in 1931. His easy listening, crooning style was immensely popular, and because of radio play, he became very widely known. along with fellow stars such as Louis Armstrong, Dean Martin, Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra and others.

Bing was one of the most popular artists of his day, and he consequently sold many records and became immensely wealthy.  His oevre include popular hits such as  ‘White Christmas’, ‘Swinging On A Star’, ‘Sunday, Monday, and Always’, ‘Sweet Leilani’,  and 60 soundtracks for film.

His enormous success had a lot to do with the historical events of the time: America was recovering from the Wall Street crash, and radio was booming. America, and indeed the whole world, were very receptive to music and movies which made them feel happy during these difficult times.  The radiogramme, another term for what we call a record player, was a ‘hot’ item,  and every ‘with it’ family wanted to own one so that they could play their favourite radio tunes.  The warm tones of Bing and his encouraging messages of love were just what the doctor ordered.

The Big Broadcast was one of the early radio shows which featured Bing Crosby’s ballads. His hit ‘Please’ came out on this show in 1932. ‘Out Of Nowhere’, Dinah’ which was sung with the Mills Brothers, ‘Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?’, and ‘It’s Easy To Remember’ which all topped the US music charts, all made their first appearances on The Big Broadcast.

The Wall Street Crash and the Depression had affected America adversely, but Bing Crosby seemed to thrive in this environment. Movies were made: He co-starred with Marion Davies in ‘Going Hollywood’ which featured his song ‘Temptation’. At New York’s Paramount Theatre where he had a run of sell-out shows he was bill-boarded as ‘The Romantic Singer Of The Songs You Love’.

Bing Crosby teamed up with comedian Bob Hope on Bing’s ‘Kraft Music Hall’ radio show. From there, the partnership with Bob Hope became even more lucrative when they made the series of ‘Road’ films. Two famous songs with which which Bing serenaded Dorothy Lamour, ‘Too Romantic’ from ‘Road To Singapore’, and ‘Moonlight Becomes You’, from ‘Road To Morocco’ come from this series.

A more swinging style is evident in some of his later songs such as ‘Swinging On a Star’, ‘An Apple For The Teacher’ with Connie Boswell, and ‘Sing A Song Of Sunbeams’.

Some of his dreamier songs won him Academy Awards: ‘Sweet Leilani’ from ‘Waikiki Wedding’, and Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ from the movie ‘Holiday Inn’, were sell-out hits. ‘White Christmas’ was one of the biggest selling records of the time: It still remains a popular song for the Christmas season to this very day. In 1974 this record was inducted into the NARAS Hall of Fame.

Bing Crosby was not just a great singer, he was also a great yarn teller., and this aspect of his talents endeared young children to his story-telling charms.

A friend of mine has just found some old 78 records in a second hand shop. One of my friend’s finds is a recording of a children’s story called ‘Little One’ – I remember listening to this charming story on radio when I was a girl, as  told by the soothing lyrical voice of Bing.  This story, in itself, had a beautiful meaning, and it brought  life to the  story of Jesus which  we were taught about in Sunday School.. We loved listening to the radio on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when the children’s programmes were on. This was before TV superseded the radio as the world’s most favourite medium.

Bing begins his story of the ‘Little One’ by chatting to a little boy about donkeys. The little boy says that donkeys are stupid. Bing says’ ‘Oh no – donkeys are not stupid. They are stubborn. If they don’t want to do something, then they won’t, but they are not stupid’……..’No, my friend.  Donkeys are not stubborn, they are proud, and I’ll tell you why they are proud.’  Bing proceeds to tell the story which could explain why donkeys are supposed to be very proud animals. The donkey in the story is the donkey who became the most famous donkey in the world:  The donkey ends up being Jesus’ donkey.

Love counts for a lot in this story, as the donkey is ‘saved’ out of a Christ-like love which the little boy has for his donkey. The act of love and mercy shown by the little boy sets the donkey off on his path to fulfil his destiny as the donkey who carried Jesus.

The story goes something like this: A little boy had been instructed to take the old donkey to the tannery. He really didn’t want to do this, as he loved the old donkey. He started out, but could not continue with the journey which would end in the death of his pet. He returned home. As an alternative, , he was instructed by his Dad to take the donkey to the glue factory, but he is not happy about this plan either. On the way to the glue factory, he tries to sell the donkey to someone who will not kill his pet. And who do you think bought his donkey?….. the young Jesus. So this little donkey became the most famous donkey in the world, because he was the donkey who carried Jesus.

And that is why donkeys are proud animals to this very day.


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