THOUGH HE WAS BORN Harry Lillis Crosby, the millions of people around the world who could instantly recognize that smooooooth baritone knew him by more endearing names: Bing. Der Bingle. The Groaner. Le Bing. And though Bing Crosby died Friday on a golf course in Spain at the age of 73, there lives Bing the Legend: the casual, pipe-smoking, glib-lipped, father-figure in the flamboyant attire.

To today's small children, perhaps. he may be best known as the dad with all that orange juice for his family in the TV ads - or as the name of a golf tournament. His original bub-bub-bub-a-boo, croon-and-whistle renditions of "When the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day" and other ballads may ring funny in the Age of Rock - too gentle, perhaps, too sentimental for today's young. Butthe time eas when young people fell in love - and people of all ages did their Christmas shopping - to his accompaniment. For a full century, he was one of those rare, enduring super-entertainers of show business who somehow manage to capture - and hold - entire generations of fans.

The Crosby singing style slid with ease through so many music modes, form his perenials,"Silent Night" and "White Christmas," through the delight-ful silliness of the "Road" pictures with his pal Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour and later to stompin' Dixieland fun with Louis Armstrong in "High Society." Just as efforlessly as he seemed to glide into any kind of music, Bing adapted to all the forms that entertainment was to take, from phonograph record sales of more than 300 million through nearly 60 movies (an Oscar for "Going My Way") and on into house-holds via television specials.

Behind his cool, well-Now-looky-here demeanor was a hard-working man of many talents. He was a successful business executive, asportman-entrepreneur, a father of twp families (four children by Dixe Lee, who died in 1952, and three by Kathy Grant) And while he did not make a big fuss about it, he was also apparently a considerable philanthropist.

But more of all, Bing Crosby was your reliable family friend, ever available and able to make everyone around him feel comfortable. That's why you wanted to believe that he'd somehow be around forever - and why, thanks to a rich legacy of recorded performances, we rather think he will be.