Famous Baritones of the 20th Century – Ibbo 

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Baritones are often synonymous with flawed anti-heroes, men of uncontrollable emotion and sometimes, outright villains.

Here are two of the most famous baritones of the twentieth century who may or may not have exhibited some of these qualities. I will leave you to make your own judgements.

 Bing Crosby, Singer / Actor

  • Born: 3 May 1903
  • Birthplace: Tacoma, Washington
  • Died: 14 October 1977 (heart attack)
  • Best Known As: The singer of “White Christmas”
  • Name at birth: Harry Lillis Crosby

Crosby was one of the biggest music and movie stars of the mid-20th century. He started out as a member of the Rhythm Boys, a jazz vocal trio, before going solo in the early 1930s. He quickly became a radio star, a silky-smooth crooner who could sing both pop and jazz. As such he is often credited with inspiring Frank Sinatra and other modern pop singers. Crosby also became a film star, winning an Oscar for his portrayal of a good-natured priest in the 1944 movie ʻGoing My Wayʼ. His long running comic feud with comedian Bob Hope was milked for laughs on their radio and TV shows, and they co-starred in a series of movies that became known as the “road films”: Crosby first sang the tune “White Christmas” in the movie Holiday Inn (1942); his recording of the tune remains a holiday favourite, and for many years was the biggest-selling single of all time. In the 1960s and ’70s his annual Christmas special was a popular TV fixture. He died in 1977 on a golf course in Spain, having just completed the 18th hole. In 1955 whilst filming the Country Girl he had an intense affair with his co-starGrace Kelly, a fellow Irish Catholic, which was kept quiet to protect both their reputations and at the insistence of Kellyʼs dad, a millionaire Irish builder, who didnʼt want some old crooner getting the dosh.

Adolf Hitler, Painter /Politician

  • Born: April 20 1889
  • Birthplace: Braunau am Inn, Austria
  • Died: 30th April 1945 (suicide)
  • Best Known As: Führer and Reichskanzler of Germany
  • Name at birth: Adolf Schicklgruber

Adolf Hitlerʼs life has been exhaustively researched and documented from his early years in the Bavarian Army Rhythm Boys, a jazz vocal trio, before going solo in the early 1930s with his unique style of National Socialist demagoguery. He quickly became a radio and film star no doubt due to his absolute control of the German media from 1933 and his subsequent dominance of most of continental Europe until his timely death in 1945. He spent most of his later years touring extensively with notable success in Poland, France, Italy, The Balkans and North Africa. His popularity reached its height in 1942 with his initial early successes in Russia, but his failures to dislodge The Joe Stalin Red Army Ensemble from the no 1 position in the Moscow Hit Parade led to a rapid and then complete eclipse of his once dominant position in European popular culture. With the rediscovery of the only known tape of Hitlerʼs singing voice in a Finnish garage in 1992 we can now conclusively prove that he was a baritone. Previously all his recordings were of the intense delivery he used for his official ranting and ravings. It was secretly recorded by Finnish intelligence agents in the buffet of Hitlerʼs private train when he sang Happy Birthday to the Finnish war leader, Marshall Mannerheim on his 75th birthday on 4th June 1942 Although somewhat marred by the accompaniment of a drunken Scotsman at the other end of the buffet car it proves that Hitler was a baritone. His inability to remember the second verse or indeed the baritone line supports the conclusion.

Stay well – friendship and summer holidays

This is a piece which I have deleted twice. Don’t know how but it’s a senior moment. Two senior moments. If I lose this I shall feel a right twerp.

Very interesting articles recently in the Times (July 25th). Ysenda Maxtone Graham (Lazy days with nothing in the diary) and Sheridan Voysey (Friendship). Arguably the same thing, certainly lots of overlap.

One of the things that has got people thinking during the pandemic is just how we spend our time. Talk of learning a language, doing a Phd, writing a novel. Then, for those with family, especially up against it in the towns and cities, the amount of time spent keeping children occupied. Another connected thought comes from how we spent our summer holidays back in the 1950s. We entertained ourselves and didn’t  cost anything. Indeed back then rationing and austerity were still around. Being careful and thoughtful with money was a virtue, particularly when food and eating were involved. Somewhat different to buying loads at the supermarket at the start of the pandemic.

These reflections resonate with today’s 60 and 70 somethings. My mum worked and granny supervised. I was out roaming the spaces near where we lived. Freedom. Waste ground next to the railway and an abandoned quarry were parts of our territory, so free and risky as well. And then there were hills, hedgerows, fields and streams. ‘Our territory’ meant we had a gang. 10 year olds. Wandered and played football and cricket together until we went our separate ways after the eleven plus. This was the time before housing estates, before traffic jams and paedophiles, before the attraction of youth clubs and girls. Before ipads.

Did we go away on holiday? The family had a week on the east coast. Went on a Hanson’s bus and stopped half way for refreshments. One large battered suitcase which took all Friday night to pack. A caravan or a chalet. Teenagers didn’t with parents. Camping and walking as part of school or youth club parties. Butlins and the Norfolk Broads for others. Even went abroad – Yugoslavia and Austria. Long tiring trips on trains. We were part of another gang.

Our holidays since have been more frequent and shorter. Regular visitors to Gower, Cornwall, the Lakes, Ireland, Northumbria and an assortment of canals. Yes and abroad – Brittany, Italy, Spain. With friends and now more with family. Friends from sport and work with whom touch is lost when moving about.

We have never been regular restaurant visitors. A legacy from the 1950s? Value for money surely comes into it. Even if food is good I fail to see why I should spend ninety odd quid on two meals. Similarly I baulk at a pub meal  advertising a pie which is clearly stew with a crusty hat. The finer points of cuisine, red wine and classical music have passed me by .

So, lots of references to pals and friends. Last Thursday was National Friendship Day. People with whom you share interests and values. Some are listeners. Others tell you how their day was. Consoling. People to check out your thoughts and feelings with and not simply rely on Radio4 and the Times newspaper. The childbride is never off the phone. I’m never on it.

I do have friends. Pete and I played junior rugby league for Dalton St Pauls in Huddersfield. I went off to seek fame and fortune. Pete stayed in the local business world, finishing in the publishing section of the Examiner – and a revealing scepticism about the press. When the family moved back to the W Riding, I tried to play squash at Honley. Met Pete again (and Geoff) and so began a saga of walking in the Dales. We also share mid life stories of health and retirement. I saved Geoff’s bacon in Hawes with a Mrs Doubtfire skill.

Big Dave and I played veterans and blind pimply faced youth rugby in N Yorkshire. A Barnsley lad, he went down the pit, then a musician in the army and eventually a BT lineman in the dales. Over 20 stone and shinning up telegraph poles – phew. We share a love of high lonely places and spent time walking, camping and caravanning in Scotland and N Yorkshire. I am not aware he had a mid life thing, but he was certainly there for me.

Then there’s Eric. Psychiatrist and serious. Walking again: White Peak, Coast-to-Coast and Hadrian’s Wall. He’s move near Portsmouth. A good pal.

Others along the way – Liverpool, Cardiff, Saddleworth, N Yorkshire – colleagues, cricket and a rugby. More recently the old farts from the residue of Almondbury Casuals CC, stiff pilates mates, out of tune New Mill Male choristers.

My bestest pal is my childbride. Rubbing along all these years. What does she see?

So 1950s brought-up-to-date summer holidays and friendship. We remain fairly close to those early beliefs and values. I now vote for the economy and a occasionally wear a waistcoat with pocket watch. Bigger houses. Keen on self-reliance – 1950s plus parental expectations and being from Yorkshire. Some difficulty taking advice maybe. Our friends accept who we are.

……………………………………………………………………………….

Let Me Die a Young Man’s Death?

Trying to keep the above piece safe I came across something from 1997 I think. About old age. Before adopting one space after commas and full stops. And getting it’s right.

‘Old age has a great sense of calm and freedom. When the passions have relaxed their hold you have escaped, not from one master, but from many.’ (Plato:  The Republic)

I’m not sure where the phrase ageing gracefully comes from, but Plato’s quotation is one among several suggesting that aging might have its benefits. There are others, with Lear leading the way, which support the opposite view. 

‘You see me here, you gods, a poor old man, As full of grief as age; wretched in both:’ (Shakespeare: King Lear)

My problem is I just get more puzzled. Each room in our house has a television – why? I can spend up to two hours in a car and go nowhere – pointless. An old lady gets mugged for pence – an outrage. Events I don’t understand are happening everyday: locally, nationally and internationally.  The Twin Towers atrocity beggars belief. What is going on?  I don’t know, so sod aging gracefully, I’m aging angrily.

I enrolled at the local university yesterday. It’s freshers week. I’m a second year trying to complete the first year – a slow old hand with a swagger. I cycled in – we smugly only own the one car which the childbride uses for work.  Student  registration is all done on computer. It doesn’t recognise my number or password so I fill in a form. Takes me thirty seconds.  I cycle home.

Its my second spell at college. The first was thirty years ago, and today I’m trying to book bed and breakfast so we can go to the reunion. The local tourist board have put me on hold, all their operators are busy. The hold tells me it values my custom. After five minutes the hold asks me to leave a message, “We’ll call you back”. I’m still waiting.

We might have booked earlier, but the phone’s been off for a week. No one rang, I was in heaven. I’ve heard it said that some people carry a phone around with them all the time. Fancy that.

So I’m a crosspatch. And, when something daft happens, I’m cross twice-over because I accept that’s the way things are. What kind of attitude is that? In the sixties, when we first went away to college, Roger McGough was one of the local poets. He’s done well. ‘The Way Things Are’ and ‘Let Me Die a Young Man’s Death’ neatly capture learning to accept on the one hand, and challenging the ‘norm’ on the other. A father’s advice, to soften a child’s growing sense of disappointment, and an enraged geriatric.

‘Do not become a prison-officer unless you know what you’re letting someone else in for. The thrill of being a shower curtain will soon pall. No trusting hand awaits a falling star,

I am your father, and I am sorry, but this is the way things are.’ (Extract from ‘The Way Things Are’ McGough) 

They say more of us are going to live longer and still be fit. More and more ‘greys’ remaining healthy enough to be angry. Angry health. Is that an oxymoron? My inherited 1901 Chambers’s Twentieth Century Dictionary (strange place for the apostrophe) defines oxymoron as,

‘n. a figure of speech, by means of which contradictory terms are combined, so as to form an expressive phrase or epithet, as cruel kindness, falsley true, &c.  [Gr. neut. of oxymoros, lit. pointedly foolish-oxys, sharp, moros, foolish.]’

‘Or when I’m 104 and banned from the Cavern, may my mistress, catching me in bed with her daughter and fearing for her son, cut me up into little pieces and throw away every piece but one.

Let me die a young man’s death, not a free from sin tiptoe in candle wax and waning death

not a curtains drawn by angels borne ‘what a nice way to go’ death’. (Extract from ‘Let Me Die a Young Man’s Death’ McGough)

Yes, the world and my life are often contradictory and foolish. 

And nothing dele