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Irving Berlin

Irving Berlin

Overview
Irving Berlin was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 and lyricist
Lyricist
A lyricist is a songwriter who specializes in lyrics. A singer who writes the lyrics to songs is a singer-lyricist. This differentiates from a singer-composer, who composes the song's melody.-Collaboration:...

 of Jewish heritage, widely considered one of the greatest songwriter
Songwriter
A songwriter is an individual who writes both the lyrics and music to a song. Someone who solely writes lyrics may be called a lyricist, and someone who only writes music may be called a composer...

s in American history.

His first hit song, "Alexander's Ragtime Band
Alexander's Ragtime Band
"Alexander's Ragtime Band" is the name of a song by Irving Berlin. It was his first major hit, in 1911. There is some evidence, although inconclusive, that Berlin borrowed the melody from a draft of "A Real Slow Drag" submitted by Scott Joplin that had been submitted to a...

", became world famous. The song sparked an international dance craze in places as far away as Berlin's native Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, which also "flung itself into the ragtime beat with an abandon bordering on mania." Over the years he was known for writing music and lyrics in the American vernacular: uncomplicated, simple and direct, with his aim being to "reach the heart of the average American" whom he saw as the "real soul of the country."

He wrote hundreds of songs, many becoming major hits, which made him "a legend" before he turned thirty.
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Encyclopedia
Irving Berlin was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 and lyricist
Lyricist
A lyricist is a songwriter who specializes in lyrics. A singer who writes the lyrics to songs is a singer-lyricist. This differentiates from a singer-composer, who composes the song's melody.-Collaboration:...

 of Jewish heritage, widely considered one of the greatest songwriter
Songwriter
A songwriter is an individual who writes both the lyrics and music to a song. Someone who solely writes lyrics may be called a lyricist, and someone who only writes music may be called a composer...

s in American history.

His first hit song, "Alexander's Ragtime Band
Alexander's Ragtime Band
"Alexander's Ragtime Band" is the name of a song by Irving Berlin. It was his first major hit, in 1911. There is some evidence, although inconclusive, that Berlin borrowed the melody from a draft of "A Real Slow Drag" submitted by Scott Joplin that had been submitted to a...

", became world famous. The song sparked an international dance craze in places as far away as Berlin's native Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, which also "flung itself into the ragtime beat with an abandon bordering on mania." Over the years he was known for writing music and lyrics in the American vernacular: uncomplicated, simple and direct, with his aim being to "reach the heart of the average American" whom he saw as the "real soul of the country."

He wrote hundreds of songs, many becoming major hits, which made him "a legend" before he turned thirty. During his 60-year career he wrote an estimated 1,500 songs, including the scores for 19 Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 shows and 18 Hollywood films, with his songs nominated eight times for Academy Awards
Academy Awards
An Academy Award, also known as an Oscar, is an accolade bestowed by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers...

. Many songs became popular themes and anthems, including "Easter Parade
Easter Parade (song)
"Easter Parade" is a popular song that was written by Irving Berlin and was published in 1933. The lyrics describe the singer's involvement in an American cultural event called the Easter parade....

", "White Christmas
White Christmas (song)
"White Christmas" is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide.Accounts vary as...

", "Happy Holiday
Happy Holiday (song)
"Happy Holiday" is a popular song composed by Irving Berlin during 1942.The song was first performed by Bing Crosby for the 1942 film Holiday Inn. While it is often regarded as a Christmas song, in the movie it is performed on New Year's Eve, and expresses a wish for the listener to enjoy "happy...

", "This is the Army, Mr. Jones", and "There's No Business Like Show Business
There's No Business Like Show Business
"There's No Business Like Show Business" is an Irving Berlin song, written for the musical Annie Get Your Gun and orchestrated by Ted Royal. The song, a slightly tongue-in-cheek salute to the glamor and excitement of a life in show business, is sung in the musical by members of Buffalo Bill's Wild...

". His Broadway musical and 1942 film, This is the Army
This Is the Army
This Is the Army is a 1943 American wartime motion picture produced by Hal B. Wallis and Jack L. Warner, and directed by Michael Curtiz, and a wartime musical designed to boost morale in the U.S. during World War II, directed by Sgt. Ezra Stone...

, with Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

, had Kate Smith
Kate Smith
Kathryn Elizabeth "Kate" Smith was an American Popular singer, best known for her rendition of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America". Smith had a radio, television, and recording career spanning five decades, which reached its pinnacle in the 1940s.Smith was born in Greenville, Virginia...

 singing Berlin's "God Bless America
God Bless America
"God Bless America" is an American patriotic song written by Irving Berlin in 1918 and revised by him in 1938. The later version has notably been recorded by Kate Smith, becoming her signature song ....

" which was first performed in 1938. Smith still performed the song on her 1960 CBS
CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

 television series, The Kate Smith Show
The Kate Smith Show
The Kate Smith Show is a half-hour, short-lived variety program which aired on CBS television from January 25 to July 18, 1960. The program features singer Kate Smith and the Harry Simeone Chorale.-Background:...

. After the September 11 attacks in 2001, Celine Dion
Celine Dion
Céline Marie Claudette Dion, , , is a Canadian singer. Born to a large family from Charlemagne, Quebec, Dion emerged as a teen star in the French-speaking world after her manager and future husband René Angélil mortgaged his home to finance her first record...

 recorded it as a tribute, making it #1 on the charts.

Berlin's songs have reached the top of the charts 25 times and have been extensively re-recorded by numerous singers including Ethel Merman
Ethel Merman
Ethel Merman was an American actress and singer. Known primarily for her powerful voice and roles in musical theatre, she has been called "the undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage." Among the many standards introduced by Merman in Broadway musicals are "I Got Rhythm", "Everything's...

, Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

, Ethel Waters
Ethel Waters
Ethel Waters was an American blues, jazz and gospel vocalist and actress. She frequently performed jazz, big band, and pop music, on the Broadway stage and in concerts, although she began her career in the 1920s singing blues.Her best-known recordings includes, "Dinah", "Birmingham Bertha",...

, Judy Garland
Judy Garland
Judy Garland was an American actress and singer. Through a career that spanned 45 of her 47 years and for her renowned contralto voice, she attained international stardom as an actress in musical and dramatic roles, as a recording artist and on the concert stage...

, Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand
Barbra Joan Streisand is an American singer, actress, film producer and director. She has won two Academy Awards, eight Grammy Awards, four Emmy Awards, a Special Tony Award, an American Film Institute award, a Peabody Award, and is one of the few entertainers who have won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy,...

, Linda Ronstadt
Linda Ronstadt
Linda Ronstadt is an American popular music recording artist. She has earned eleven Grammy Awards, two Academy of Country Music awards, an Emmy Award, an ALMA Award, numerous United States and internationally certified gold, platinum and multiplatinum albums, in addition to Tony Award and Golden...

, Rosemary Clooney
Rosemary Clooney
Rosemary Clooney was an American singer and actress. She came to prominence in the early 1950s with the novelty hit "Come On-a My House" written by William Saroyan and his cousin Ross Bagdasarian , which was followed by other pop numbers such as "Botch-a-Me" Rosemary Clooney (May 23, 1928 –...

, Cher
Cher
Cher is an American recording artist, television personality, actress, director, record producer and philanthropist. Referred to as the Goddess of Pop, she has won an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, three Golden Globes and a Cannes Film Festival Award among others for her work in...

, Diana Ross
Diana Ross
Diana Ernestine Earle Ross is an American singer, record producer, and actress. Ross was lead singer of the Motown group The Supremes during the 1960s. After leaving the group in 1970, Ross began a solo career that included successful ventures into film and Broadway...

, Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby was an American singer and actor. Crosby's trademark bass-baritone voice made him one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century, with over half a billion records in circulation....

, Rita Reys
Rita Reys
Rita Reys is a jazz singer from the Netherlands.At the 1960 jazz festival of Juan Les Pins , she received the title 'Europe’s first lady of jazz'.-Early career:...

, Frankie Laine
Frankie Laine
Frankie Laine, born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio , was a successful American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spanned 75 years, from his first concerts in 1930 with a marathon dance company to his final performance of "That's My Desire" in 2005...

, Johnnie Ray
Johnnie Ray
Johnnie Ray was an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. Popular for most of the 1950s, Ray has been cited by critics as a major precursor of what would become rock and roll, for his jazz and blues-influenced music and his animated stage personality.-Early life:John Alvin Ray was born in...

, Al Jolson
Al Jolson
Al Jolson was an American singer, comedian and actor. In his heyday, he was dubbed "The World's Greatest Entertainer"....

, Nat King Cole
Nat King Cole
Nathaniel Adams Coles , known professionally as Nat King Cole, was an American musician who first came to prominence as a leading jazz pianist. Although an accomplished pianist, he owes most of his popular musical fame to his soft baritone voice, which he used to perform in big band and jazz genres...

, Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Nicknamed "Lady Day" by her friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing...

, Doris Day
Doris Day
Doris Day is an American actress, singer and, since her retirement from show business, an animal rights activist. With an entertainment career that spanned through almost 50 years, Day started her career as a big band singer in 1939, but only began to be noticed after her first hit recording,...

 and Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Jane Fitzgerald , also known as the "First Lady of Song" and "Lady Ella," was an American jazz and song vocalist...

. Composer Douglas Moore sets Berlin apart from all other contemporary songwriters, and includes him instead with Stephen Foster
Stephen Foster
Stephen Collins Foster , known as the "father of American music", was the pre-eminent songwriter in the United States of the 19th century...

, Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse...

, and Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg was an American writer and editor, best known for his poetry. He won three Pulitzer Prizes, two for his poetry and another for a biography of Abraham Lincoln. H. L. Mencken called Carl Sandburg "indubitably an American in every pulse-beat."-Biography:Sandburg was born in Galesburg,...

, as a "great American minstrel"—someone who has "caught and immortalized in his songs what we say, what we think about, and what we believe." Composer George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

 called him "the greatest songwriter that has ever lived", and composer Jerome Kern
Jerome Kern
Jerome David Kern was an American composer of musical theatre and popular music. One of the most important American theatre composers of the early 20th century, he wrote more than 700 songs, used in over 100 stage works, including such classics as "Ol' Man River", "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man", "A...

 concluded that "Irving Berlin has no place in American music—he is American music."

Life in Russia


Irving Berlin was born Israel Isidore Baline on May 11, 1888, one of eight children of Moses and Lena Lipkin Baline. There are several possibilities concerning his birth city. It could be Tyumen
Tyumen
Tyumen is the largest city and the administrative center of Tyumen Oblast, Russia, located on the Tura River east of Moscow. Population: Tyumen is the oldest Russian settlement in Siberia. Founded in 16th century to support Russia's eastward expansion, the city has remained one of the most...

 or Tumen
Tumen
Tumen or Tümen was a part of the decimal system used by Turkic and Mongol peoples to organize their armies. Tumen is an army unit of 10,000 soldiers...

, any one of several villages near the city of Mogilyov, Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

). His father, a cantor
Hazzan
A hazzan or chazzan is a Jewish cantor, a musician trained in the vocal arts who helps lead the congregation in songful prayer.There are many rules relating to how a cantor should lead services, but the idea of a cantor as a paid professional does not exist in classical rabbinic sources...

 in a Jewish synagogue, uprooted the family to America, as did many other Jewish families in the late 19th century. In 1893 they settled in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. According to his biographer, Laurence Bergreen
Laurence Bergreen
Laurence Bergreen is a historian and biographer who lives in New York City.- Career :A Harvard graduate, Bergreen worked in journalism, academia and broadcasting before publishing his first biography, James Agee: A Life...

, as an adult Berlin admitted to no memories of his first five years in Russia except for one: "he was lying on a blanket by the side of a road, watching his house burn to the ground. By daylight the house was in ashes."

Author and music historian Ian Whitcomb
Ian Whitcomb
Ian Whitcomb is an entertainer, singer, songwriter, author, record producer, and actor...

 described Berlin's life in Russia:


Life might have seemed irksome to Israel Baline: God was watching you everywhere. From the dawn bath to the night straw cot, everything was of religious significance. God was in the food and in the clothing. When Moses caught Israel pulling on his little shoes in a manner proscribed by the Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

 he beat him…

The floor of the Baline hut-home was of hard black dirt. Outside, the squiggly streets of Tyumen were either mud or dust according to the season. Lining the squiggles were horrid wooden huts. Sometimes wild pigs would rage into town and bite children to death…It was not a setting to sing about… Instead, cantor Moses took his children to the synagogue where, in soothing sing-song readings from the Talmud, the cares of the day were eased away. Life in Tyumen sounds pretty awful but, in later years, Irving Berlin said he was unaware of being raised in abject poverty. He knew no other life and there was always hot food on the table, even if it was God-riddled.


Whitcomb also describes further the turning point in Berlin's early life:


But, suddenly one day, the Cossacks rampaged in on a pogrom... they simply burned it to the ground. Israel and his family watched from a distant road. Israel was wrapped in a warm feather quilt. Then they made a hasty exit. Knowing that they were breaking the law by leaving without a passport (Russia at that time was the only country requiring passports), the Balines smuggled themselves creepingly from town to town, from satellite to satellite, from sea to shining sea, until finally they reached their star: the Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28, 1886...

.


Nicholas II, the new Tsar of Russia, notes Whitcomb, had revived with utmost brutality the anti-Jewish pogroms, which created the spontaneous mass exodus to America. The pogroms were to continue until 1906, and thousands of other families besides the Balines would also escape, including those of George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

 and Ira Gershwin
Ira Gershwin
Ira Gershwin was an American lyricist who collaborated with his younger brother, composer George Gershwin, to create some of the most memorable songs of the 20th century....

, Al Jolson
Al Jolson
Al Jolson was an American singer, comedian and actor. In his heyday, he was dubbed "The World's Greatest Entertainer"....

, Sophie Tucker
Sophie Tucker
Sophie Tucker was a Russian/Ukrainian-born American singer and actress. Known for her stentorian delivery of comical and risqué songs, she was one of the most popular entertainers in America during the first half of the 20th century...

, L. Wolfe Gilbert
L. Wolfe Gilbert
Louis Wolfe Gilbert was a Russian-born American songwriter.-Biography:Born in Odessa, Russian Empire, Gilbert moved to the United States as a young man and eventually established himself as one of the leading songwriters on Tin Pan Alley.Gilbert began his career touring with John L...

 ("Waiting for the Robert E. Lee"), Jack Yellen
Jack Yellen
Jack Selig Yellen was an American lyricist and screenwriter.-Life and career:Born in Poland, Yellen emigrated with his family to the United States when he was five years old. The oldest of seven children, he was raised in Buffalo, New York and began writing songs in high school...

 ("Happy Days Are Here Again"), Louis B. Mayer
Louis B. Mayer
Louis Burt Mayer born Lazar Meir was an American film producer. He is generally cited as the creator of the "star system" within Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in its golden years. Known always as Louis B...

 (MGM) and the Warner brothers
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., also known as Warner Bros. Pictures or simply Warner Bros. , is an American producer of film and television entertainment.One of the major film studios, it is a subsidiary of Time Warner, with its headquarters in Burbank,...

.

Settling in New York City


They eventually settled on Cherry Street, a "cold-water basement flat with no windows," on the Lower East Side
Lower East Side
The Lower East Side, LES, is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is roughly bounded by Allen Street, East Houston Street, Essex Street, Canal Street, Eldridge Street, East Broadway, and Grand Street....

. His father, unable to find comparable work as a cantor in New York, took a job at a kosher meat market and gave Hebrew lessons on the side, and struggled to support his family. He died a few years later when Irving was thirteen years old. With only a few years of schooling, Irving found it necessary to take to the streets to help support his family. He became a newspaper boy, hawking The Evening Journal. On his first day on the job, according to Berlin’s biographer and friend, Alexander Woollcott
Alexander Woollcott
Alexander Humphreys Woollcott was an American critic and commentator for The New Yorker magazine and a member of the Algonquin Round Table....

, the boy “stopped to look at a ship about to put out for China. So entranced was he that he failed to notice a swinging crane, and he was knocked into the river. When he was fished out, after going down for the third time, he was still holding in his clenched fist the five pennies that constituted his first day's receipts, his contribution to the family budget.” His mother took jobs as a midwife, and three of his sisters worked wrapping cigars, common for immigrant girls. His older brother worked in a sweatshop assembling shirts. Each evening, when the family came home from their day's work, Bergreen writes, "they would deposit the coins they had earned that day into Lena's outspread apron."

Music historian Philip Furia
Philip Furia
Philip George Furia is an American author and English literature professor. His books focus on the lyricists of the Tin Pan Alley era.- Biography :...

 writes that when eight-year-old "Izzy" quit school to sell newspapers in the Bowery, he no doubt would "hear the hits of the day drift through the doors of saloons and restaurants" that lined the streets of New York. He found that if he sang some of the songs while selling papers, people would toss him coins in appreciation, which gave him a vision of things to come. One night to his mother, he "confessed his life's ambition—to become a singing waiter in a saloon."

Before turning fourteen, according to Woollcott, he began to realize that "he contributed less than the least of his sisters... and he was sick with a sense of his own worthlessness." Bergreen writes that it was at this point that he left home to become a "foot soldier in the city's ragged army of immigrants." Berlin entered a lifestyle along the Bowery
Bowery
Bowery may refer to:Streets:* The Bowery, a thoroughfare in Manhattan, New York City* Bowery Street is a street on Coney Island in Brooklyn, N.Y.In popular culture:* Bowery Amphitheatre, a building on the Bowery in New York City...

 where an entire subindustry of lodging houses had sprung up to shelter the thousands of homeless boys choking the Lower East Side
Lower East Side
The Lower East Side, LES, is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is roughly bounded by Allen Street, East Houston Street, Essex Street, Canal Street, Eldridge Street, East Broadway, and Grand Street....

 streets. "They were not settlement houses or charitable institutions; rather, they were Dickensian in their meanness, filth, and insensitivity to ordinary human beings."

Early jobs


With few survival skills and little education, he realized that formal employment was out of the question. His only ability was acquired from his father's vocation: singing. He joined with a few other youngsters and went to saloons on the Bowery to sing to customers. These itinerant young singers were common on the Lower East Side. He would sing a few of the popular ballads he heard on the street, hoping that customers would "pitch a few pennies in his direction." As Bergreen notes, "it was in these seamy surroundings that the runaway boy received his real and lasting education." Music became his sole source of income and he emerged culturally from the ghetto lifestyle, learning the "language of the street."

To survive he began to recognize the kind of songs that appealed to audiences: "well-known tunes expressing simple sentiments were the most reliable." He began plugging songs at Tony Pastor
Tony Pastor
Tony Pastor was an American impresario, variety performer and theatre owner who became one of the founding forces behind American vaudeville in the mid-to-late nineteenth century...

's Music Hall in Union Square
Union Square (New York City)
Union Square is a public square in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York.It is an important and historic intersection, located where Broadway and the former Bowery Road – now Fourth Avenue – came together in the early 19th century; its name celebrates neither the...

 and finally, in 1906 when he was 18, working as a singing waiter at the Pelham Cafe in Chinatown
Chinatown
A Chinatown is an ethnic enclave of overseas Chinese people, although it is often generalized to include various Southeast Asian people. Chinatowns exist throughout the world, including East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Americas, Australasia, and Europe. Binondo's Chinatown located in Manila,...

. Besides serving drinks, he sang made-up "blue" parodies of hit songs to the delight of customers. Berlin biographer Charles Hamm writes that "in his free time he taught himself to play the piano." When the bar closed for the night, young Berlin would sit at a piano in the back and pick out tunes. His first attempt at songwriting was "Marie From Sunny Italy," written in collaboration with the Pelham's resident pianist, Mike Nicholson. The sheet music to this song made history because of a printer's error in the score. The name printed on the cover read: 'I. Berlin.' (Berlin never learned to play in more than one key and used a custom-made 1940 Weser Brothers piano with a transposing lever to change keys.)

Berlin admired the words to the songs but the rhythms were "kind of boggy". One night he delivered some hits by friend George M. Cohan
George M. Cohan
George Michael Cohan , known professionally as George M. Cohan, was a major American entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer, and producer....

, another kid who was getting known on Broadway with his own songs. When Berlin ended with Cohan's "Yankee Doodle Boy," notes Whichtomb, "everybody in the joint applauded the feisty little fellow. Some tarts said they felt proud to be American; a couple of thugs, who specialized in chewing off ears and breaking legs, gave Izzy the nod. And Connors, the saloon's Irish owner, said, 'You know what you are, me boy? You're the Yiddishe Yankee Doodle!'"

Nobel prize-winning author Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English poet, short-story writer, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children. Kipling received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature...

, living up the coast during that period, "was shocked and intrigued by the screeching squalor he found in the dirty gray tenement canyons of immigrant New York," writes Whitcomb. "He thought it worse than the notorious slums of Bombay. But he was impressed and moved by the Jews, noting the little immigrant boys saluting the Stars and Stripes." Kipling wrote, "For these immigrant Jews are a race that survives and thrives against all odds and flags."

Recognition as songwriter


Max Winslow, a staff member at music publisher Harry Von Tilzer
Harry Von Tilzer
Harry Von Tilzer was a very popular United States songwriter.-Biography:Von Tilzer was born in Goshen, Indiana under the name Aaron Gumbinsky which he shortened to Harry Gumm. He ran away and joined a traveling circus at age 14, where he took his new name by adding 'Von' to his mother's maiden...

 Company, noticed Berlin's singing on many occasions and became so taken with his talent that he tried to get him a job with his firm. Von Tilzer described an episode in his autobiography:


Max Winslow came to me and said, "I have discovered a great kid, I would like to see you write some songs with." Max raved about him so much that I said, "Who is he?" He said a boy down on the east side by the name of Irving Berlin... I said, "Max, How can I write with him, you know I have got the best lyric writers in the country?" But Max would not stop boosting Berlin to me, and I want to say right here that Berlin can attribute a great deal of his success to Max Winslow."


In 1908, at the age of 20, Berlin took a new job at a saloon in the Union Square
Union Square (New York City)
Union Square is a public square in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York.It is an important and historic intersection, located where Broadway and the former Bowery Road – now Fourth Avenue – came together in the early 19th century; its name celebrates neither the...

 neighborhood. There, he was able to collaborate with other young songwriters, such as Edgar Leslie
Edgar Leslie
Edgar Leslie was an American songwriter. His first song Lonesome in 1909 was an immediate success, recorded by the Haydn Quartet and again by Byron G. Harlan. Other notable artists he worked with are:...

, Ted Snyder
Ted Snyder
Theodore Frank Snyder , was a U.S. composer, lyricist, and music publisher . His hits include "The Sheik of Araby" and "Who's Sorry Now?" . In 1970, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame...

, Al Piantadosi, and George A. Whiting
George A. Whiting
George A. Whiting was a vaudeville song and dance man, and also a writer of lyrics for popular songs during the vaudeville era. He toured with singer Sadie Burt, whom he later married and had 3 daughters with. His best known work is "My Blue Heaven", with music by Walter Donaldson...

, and in 1909, the year of the premiere of Israel Zangwill
Israel Zangwill
Israel Zangwill was a British humorist and writer.-Biography:Zangwill was born in London on January 21, 1864 in a family of Jewish immigrants from Czarist Russia, to Moses Zangwill from what is now Latvia and Ellen Hannah Marks Zangwill from what is now Poland. He dedicated his life to championing...

's The Melting Pot, he got his big break as a staff lyricist with the Ted Snyder Company.

"Alexander's Ragtime Band" (1911)


From this early position, hamm writes, his "meteoric rise as a songwriter" in Tin Pan Alley
Tin Pan Alley
Tin Pan Alley is the name given to the collection of New York City music publishers and songwriters who dominated the popular music of the United States in the late 19th century and early 20th century...

 and then on Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

, began with his first world-famous hit song, "Alexander's Ragtime Band," in 1911. As a result of his instant celebrity, he was the feature performer later that year at Oscar Hammerstein
Oscar Hammerstein I
Oscar Hammerstein I was a businessman, theater impresario and composer in New York City. His passion for opera led him to open several opera houses, and he rekindled opera's popularity in America...

's vaudeville house, where he introduced dozens of other songs to the audience. The New York Telegraph wrote a story about the event, reporting that a "delegation of two hundred of his friends from the pent and huddled East Side appeared... to see 'their boy.'" The news story added that "all the little writer could do was to finger the buttons on his coat while tears ran down his cheeks--in a vaudeville house!"

Richard Corliss
Richard Corliss
Richard Nelson Corliss is a writer for Time magazine who focuses on movies, with the occasional article on music or sports. Corliss is the former editor-in-chief of Film Comment...

, wrote about the song in a Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine profile of Berlin in 2001:
"Alexander's Ragtime Band
Alexander's Ragtime Band
"Alexander's Ragtime Band" is the name of a song by Irving Berlin. It was his first major hit, in 1911. There is some evidence, although inconclusive, that Berlin borrowed the melody from a draft of "A Real Slow Drag" submitted by Scott Joplin that had been submitted to a...

" (1911). It was a march, not a rag
Ragtime
Ragtime is an original musical genre which enjoyed its peak popularity between 1897 and 1918. Its main characteristic trait is its syncopated, or "ragged," rhythm. It began as dance music in the red-light districts of American cities such as St. Louis and New Orleans years before being published...

, and its savviest musicality comprised quotes from a bugle call
Bugle call
A bugle call is a short tune, originating as a military signal announcing scheduled and certain non-scheduled events on a military installation, battlefield, or ship. Historically, bugles, drums, and other loud musical instruments were used for clear communication in the noise and confusion of a...

 and "Swanee River". But the tune, which revived the ragtime
Ragtime
Ragtime is an original musical genre which enjoyed its peak popularity between 1897 and 1918. Its main characteristic trait is its syncopated, or "ragged," rhythm. It began as dance music in the red-light districts of American cities such as St. Louis and New Orleans years before being published...

 fervor that Scott Joplin
Scott Joplin
Scott Joplin was an American composer and pianist. Joplin achieved fame for his ragtime compositions, and was later dubbed "The King of Ragtime". During his brief career, Joplin wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas...

 had stoked a decade earlier, made Berlin a songwriting star. On its first release and subsequent releases, the song was consistently near the top of the charts: Bessie Smith
Bessie Smith
Bessie Smith was an American blues singer.Sometimes referred to as The Empress of the Blues, Smith was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s...

, in 1927, and Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong , nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana....

, in 1937; # 1 by Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby was an American singer and actor. Crosby's trademark bass-baritone voice made him one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century, with over half a billion records in circulation....

 and Connee Boswell; Al Jolson
Al Jolson
Al Jolson was an American singer, comedian and actor. In his heyday, he was dubbed "The World's Greatest Entertainer"....

, in 1947. Johnny Mercer
Johnny Mercer
John Herndon "Johnny" Mercer was an American lyricist, songwriter and singer. He is best known as a lyricist, but he also composed music. He was also a popular singer who recorded his own songs as well as those written by others...

 in 1945, and Nellie Lutcher
Nellie Lutcher
Nellie Lutcher was an African-American R&B and jazz singer and pianist, who gained prominence in the late 1940s and early 1950s...

 in 1948. Add Ray Charles
Ray Charles
Ray Charles Robinson , known by his shortened stage name Ray Charles, was an American musician. He was a pioneer in the genre of soul music during the 1950s by fusing rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues styles into his early recordings with Atlantic Records...

's big-band version in 1959, and "Alexander" had a dozen hit versions in a bit under a half century.


Despite its success, the song was not initially recognized as a hit: at a private audition of the song to Broadway producer Jesse Lasky, Lasky’s response was uncertain, although he did put it in his “Follies” show. After a number of performances as an instrumental, the song did not impress audiences, and was soon dropped from the show’s score, causing Berlin to regard it as a “dead failure.” But later that year, after writing lyrics to the music, it played again in another Broadway Review, and Variety news weekly proclaimed the song "the musical sensation of the decade." Composer George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

, foreseeing its influence, said, "The first real American musical work is 'Alexander's Ragtime Band.' Berlin had shown us the way; it was now easier to attain our ideal."

Sparking a national dance craze



Berlin was "flabbergasted" by the sudden international popularity of the song, and began to ask himself "Why? Why?" Berlin later wrote,
And I got an answer. The melody... started the heels and shoulders of all America and a good section of Europe to rocking. The lyric, silly though it was, was fundamentally right.


"Watch Your Step"
Furia writes that the international success of "Alexander's Ragtime Band" gave ragtime
Ragtime
Ragtime is an original musical genre which enjoyed its peak popularity between 1897 and 1918. Its main characteristic trait is its syncopated, or "ragged," rhythm. It began as dance music in the red-light districts of American cities such as St. Louis and New Orleans years before being published...

 "new life and sparked a national dance craze." Two dancers who expressed that craze were Irene and Vernon Castle. In 1914, Berlin wrote a ragtime revue, "Watch Your Step," which starred the couple and showcased their talents on stage. That musical revue became Berlin's first complete score and Furia notes that "its songs radiated musical and lyrical sophistication." Berlin's ragtime songs, he adds, had "quickly come to signify modernism
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

, and Berlin caught the cultural struggle between Victorian
Victorian America
The Victorian Era is a name for the period from 1837 to 1901, the length of the rule of Britain's Queen Victoria. American Victorianism was an offshoot of this period and lifestyle that occurred in the United States, chiefly in heavily populated regions such as New England and the Deep South...

 gentility and the purveyors of liberation, indulgence, and leisure with songs such as "Play a Simple Melody." That particular song, according to Furia, also became the first of his famous "double" songs in which two different melodies and lyrics are counterpoint
Counterpoint
In music, counterpoint is the relationship between two or more voices that are independent in contour and rhythm and are harmonically interdependent . It has been most commonly identified in classical music, developing strongly during the Renaissance and in much of the common practice period,...

ed against one another.

Variety called it "The First Syncopated Musical," where the "sets and the girls were gorgeous." But most of the success or otherwise of the show was riding on the Berlin name, according to Whitcomb. He notes that Variety... marked the show as a "terrific hit" from opening night alone:

Irving Berlin stands out like the Times building does in the Square. That youthful marvel of syncopated melody is proving things in 'Watch Your Step', firstly that he is not alone a rag composer, and that he is one of the greatest lyric writers America has ever produced.... Besides rags Berlin wrote a polka that was very pretty, and he intermingled ballads with trots, which, including the grand opera medley, gives 'Watch Your Step' all the kind of music there is.


Whitcomb also points out the irony that Russia, the country Berlin's family was forced to leave, flung itself into "the ragtime beat with an abandon bordering on mania":

... like a display of medieval religious frenzy; some seemed to be doing a dance of death. Lady Diana Manners
Lady Diana Cooper
Lady Diana Cooper, Viscountess Norwich was an English socialite and actress.-Birth and youth:Born Lady Diana Olivia Winifred Maud Manners, she was officially the youngest daughter of the 8th Duke of Rutland and his wife, the former Violet Lindsay, but Lady Diana's real father was widely supposed...

, at a London ball reviving the Age of Chivalry, was escorted by Prince Felix Yusupov. This young man, a recent Oxford undergraduate, had an impeccable Russian noble lineage: a descendant of Frederick of Prussia
Frederick II of Prussia
Frederick II was a King in Prussia and a King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty. In his role as a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire, he was also Elector of Brandenburg. He was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

, he was heir to the largest estate in Russia, he would be richer than the Tsar. He was exquisite and heavily bejewelled, but Lady Diana was irritated by his 'wriggling around the ballroom like a demented worm, screaming for 'more ragtime and more champagne'.


Lady Diana Manners was apparently not alone in her dislike of ragtime. A newspaper clipping found in Berlin's scrapbook included an article titled, "Calls Ragtime Insanity Sign":

"Alexander's Ragtime Band" is a public menace.... The authority for these statements is Dr. Ludwig Gruener of Berlin, a German [doctor] who has devoted twenty years' study to the criminally insane.... He says, 'Hysteria is the form of insanity that an abnormal love for ragtime seems to produce. It is as much a mental disease as acute mania—it has the same symptoms. When there is nothing done to check this form it produces idiocy'. He also stated that 90 percent of the inmates of the American asylums he has visited are abnormally fond of ragtime.

Simple and romantic ballads


In future years he made every effort to write lyrics in the American vernacular: uncomplicated, simple and direct, once stating:

My ambition is to reach the heart of the average American, not the highbrow nor the lowbrow but that vast intermediate crew which is the real soul of the country. The highbrow is likely to be superficial, overtrained, supersensitive. The lowbrow is warped, subnormal. My public is the real people.



Berlin also created songs out of his own sadness. In 1912, he married Dorothy Goetz
Dorothy Goetz
Dorothy Goetz was the first wife of the famous songwriter, Irving Berlin.She was twenty years old when she met Berlin in New York City where her older brother singer and lyricist Ray Goetz had been collaborating on some tunes with Berlin...

, the sister of songwriter E. Ray Goetz
E. Ray Goetz
Edward Ray Goetz was an American composer, songwriter, author and producer. He was a charter member of ASCAP in 1914, and was a director until 1917. Goetz appeared in the films Somebody Loves Me , The Greatest Show On Earth and For Me And My Gal . He wrote the songs "Toddling The Todalo" and "For...

. She died six months later of typhoid fever
Typhoid fever
Typhoid fever, also known as Typhoid, is a common worldwide bacterial disease, transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the feces of an infected person, which contain the bacterium Salmonella enterica, serovar Typhi...

 contracted during their honeymoon in Havana
Havana
Havana is the capital city, province, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of — making it the largest city in the Caribbean region, and the most populous...

. The song he wrote to express his grief, "When I Lost You," was his first ballad. It was an immediate popular hit and sold more than a million copies. In 1916, he collaborated with Victor Herbert
Victor Herbert
Victor August Herbert was an Irish-born, German-raised American composer, cellist and conductor. Although Herbert enjoyed important careers as a cello soloist and conductor, he is best known for composing many successful operettas that premiered on Broadway from the 1890s to World War I...

 on the score of "The Century Girl."

He began to realize that the slang of ragtime would be an "inappropriate idiom for serious romantic expression," and over the next few years would begin to adapt his style by writing more love songs. In 1915 he wrote the hit, "I Love a Piano," which was an erotic, but comical, ragtime love song (Read lyrics).

By 1918 he had written hundreds of songs, mostly topical, which enjoyed brief popularity. Many of the songs were for the new dances then appearing, such as the "grizzly bear," "chicken walk," or fox trot. After a Hawaiian dance craze began, he wrote "That Hula-Hula," and then did a string of southern songs, such as "When the Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabam." During this period he was creating a few new songs every week, including numerous rags and songs aimed at the various immigrant cultures arriving from Europe. Furia tells of a train trip Berlin was on where he decided to entertain the fellow passengers. Later on they asked him how he knew so many hit songs, and Berlin would modestly reply, "I wrote them."

One of the key songs that Berlin wrote in his transition from ragtime to lyrical ballads was "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody," which was considered one of Berlin's "first big guns," according to historian Alec Wilder
Alec Wilder
Alec Wilder was an American composer.-Biography:...

. The song was written for Ziegfeld's Follies of 1919 and became the musical's leading song. Its popularity was so great that it became the theme for all of Ziegfeld's revues, and later the theme song in the 1936 film The Great Ziegfeld
The Great Ziegfeld
The Great Ziegfeld is a 1936 musical film produced by MGM. A fictionalized biography of Florenz Ziegfeld from his show business beginnings to his death, it showcases a series of spectacular musical productions. The film includes original music by Walter Donaldson and Irving Berlin...

(Watch). Wilder puts it "on a level with Jerome Kern
Jerome Kern
Jerome David Kern was an American composer of musical theatre and popular music. One of the most important American theatre composers of the early 20th century, he wrote more than 700 songs, used in over 100 stage works, including such classics as "Ol' Man River", "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man", "A...

's "pure melodies," and in comparison with Berlin's earlier music, finds it "extraordinary that such a development in style and sophistication should have taken place in a single year."

World War I


On 1 April 1917 President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

 declared that America would enter World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, and, as Whitcomb writes:
"Yip Yip Yaphank"
In 1917 Berlin was drafted into the army, and the news of his induction became headline news: "Army Takes Berlin!" one paper read. However, the army only wanted Berlin, now aged 30, to do what he knew best: to write songs of patriotism. Hence, while stationed at Camp Upton
Camp Upton
Camp Upton was an installation of the United States Army located in Yaphank on Long Island in Suffolk County, New York. It was located near Camp Mills.-History:...

 in New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, he composed an all-soldier musical revue titled "Yip Yip Yaphank
Yip Yip Yaphank
Yip Yip Yaphank is the name of musical revue composed and produced by Irving Berlin in 1918 while he was a recruit during World War I in the United States Army at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York.-From idea to the stage:...

", written to be patriotic tribute to the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

. By the following summer the show was taken to Broadway where it also included a number of hits, including "Mandy" and "Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning," which he performed himself. The shows earned $150,000 for a camp service center. One song he wrote for the show but decided not use, he would introduce twenty years later: "God Bless America."

According to Whitcomb, "at the grand finale, General Bell made a thank-you speech from his box, while Sergeant Berlin, on stage, declined to utter a word. Then, under orders from the War Department, Sergeant Berlin led the entire 300-person cast off the stage, marching them down the theater's aisles, singing 'We're on Our Way to France,' all to tumultuous applause. The cast carried off their little producer like he was victor ludorum." Berlin's mother, having seen her son perform for the first (and last) time in her life, was shocked. The soldier-actors continued out into the downtown street and up the plank to the waiting troop carrier. "Tin Pan Alley had joined hands with real life," writes Whitcomb.Watch

1920 to 1940


Berlin returned to Tin Pan Alley
Tin Pan Alley
Tin Pan Alley is the name given to the collection of New York City music publishers and songwriters who dominated the popular music of the United States in the late 19th century and early 20th century...

 after the war and in 1921 created a partnership with Sam Harris to build the Music Box Theater. He maintained an interest in the theater throughout his life, and even in his last years was known to call the Shubert Organization, his partner, to check on the receipts. In its early years, the theater was a showcase for revues by Berlin. As theater owner, producer and composer, he looked after every detail of his shows, from the costumes and sets to the casting and musical arrangements.

According to Berlin biographer David Leopold, the theater, located at 239 West 45th St., was the only Broadway house built to accommodate the works of a songwriter. It was the home of Berlin's "Music Box Revue" from 1921 to 1925 and "As Thousands Cheer" in 1933 and today includes an exhibition devoted to Berlin in the lobby.

Various hit songs


By 1926, Berlin had written the scores to two editions of the Ziegfeld Follies and four "Music Box Revues." Life magazine called him the "Lullaby Kid," noting that "couples at country-club dances grew misty-eyed when the band went into "Always," because they were positive that Berlin had written it just for them. When they quarreled and parted in the crepuscular
Crepuscular
Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight, that is during dawn and dusk. The word is derived from the Latin word crepusculum, meaning "twilight." Crepuscular is, thus, in contrast with diurnal and nocturnal behavior. Crepuscular animals may also be active on a bright...

 bitter-sweetness of the 1920s, it was Berlin who gave eloquence to their heartbreak by way of "What'll I Do
What'll I Do
"What'll I Do" is the name of a song written by Irving Berlin in 1923. It was introduced by singers Grace Moore and John Steel late in the run of Berlin's third Music Box Revue and also was included in the following year's edition...

" and "Remember" and "All Alone."

"What'll I Do?" (1924)

This ballad of love and longing was a #1 hit for Paul Whiteman
Paul Whiteman
Paul Samuel Whiteman was an American bandleader and orchestral director.Leader of the most popular dance bands in the United States during the 1920s, Whiteman's recordings were immensely successful, and press notices often referred to him as the "King of Jazz"...

 and had five other top-12 renditions in 1924. Twenty-four years later, the song went to #22 for Nat Cole and #23 for Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

.

"Always" (1925)
Written when he fell in love with Ellin Mackay, who later became his wife. The song became #1 twice (for Vincent Lopez
Vincent Lopez
Vincent Lopez was an American bandleader and pianist.Vincent Lopez was born of Portuguese immigrant parents in Brooklyn, New York and was leading his own dance band in New York City by 1917...

 and George Olsen
George Olsen
George Edward Olsen, Sr. was an American band-leader.Born in Portland, Oregon, he played the drums and attended the University of Michigan, where he was drum major. Here he formed his band, George Olsen and his Music, which continued in the Portland area...

) in its first incarnation. There were four more hit versions in 1944–45. In 1959 Sammy Turner
Sammy Turner
Sammy Turner is an American singer, who was popular at the end of the 1950s.-Career:...

 took the song to #2 on the R&B chart. It became Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline , born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Gore, Virginia, was an American country music singer who enjoyed pop music crossover success during the era of the Nashville sound in the early 1960s...

's postmortem anthem and hit #18 on the country chart in 1980, 17 years after her death, and a tribute musical called "Patsy Cline ... Always," played a two-year Nashville
Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville is the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee and the county seat of Davidson County. It is located on the Cumberland River in Davidson County, in the north-central part of the state. The city is a center for the health care, publishing, banking and transportation industries, and is home...

 run that ended in 1995.

"Blue Skies
Blue Skies (song)
-History:The song was composed in 1926 as a last minute addition to the Rodgers and Hart musical, Betsy. Although the show only ran for 39 performances, "Blue Skies" was an instant success, with audiences on opening night demanding 24 encores of the piece from star, Belle Baker. During the final...

" (1926)
Written after his first daughter's birth as a song just for her. In it he distilled his feelings about being married and a father for the first time: "Blue days, all of them gone; nothing but blue skies, from now on." #1 for Ben Selvin
Ben Selvin
Benjamin B. Selvin , son of Russian-immigrant Jewish parents, was a musician, bandleader, record producer and innovator in recorded music. He was known as The Dean of Recorded Music....

 with five other hits in 1927 besides being the first song performed by Al Jolson
Al Jolson
Al Jolson was an American singer, comedian and actor. In his heyday, he was dubbed "The World's Greatest Entertainer"....

 in the first feature sound film, "The Jazz Singer
The Jazz Singer (1927 film)
The Jazz Singer is a 1927 American musical film. The first feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue sequences, its release heralded the commercial ascendance of the "talkies" and the decline of the silent film era. Produced by Warner Bros. with its Vitaphone sound-on-disc system,...

," that same year. In 1946 it returned to the top 10 on the charts with Count Basie
Count Basie
William "Count" Basie was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer. Basie led his jazz orchestra almost continuously for nearly 50 years...

 and Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
Benjamin David “Benny” Goodman was an American jazz and swing musician, clarinetist and bandleader; widely known as the "King of Swing".In the mid-1930s, Benny Goodman led one of the most popular musical groups in America...

. In 1978, Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson
Willie Hugh Nelson is an American country music singer-songwriter, as well as an author, poet, actor, and activist. The critical success of the album Shotgun Willie , combined with the critical and commercial success of Red Headed Stranger and Stardust , made Nelson one of the most recognized...

 made the song a #1 country hit—52 years after it was written.

"Marie" (1929)
This waltz-time hit went to #2 with Rudy Vallee
Rudy Vallée
Rudy Vallée was an American singer, actor, bandleader, and entertainer.-Early life:Born Hubert Prior Vallée in Island Pond, Vermont, the son of Charles Alphonse and Catherine Lynch Vallée...

 and in 1937 reached #1 with Tommy Dorsey
Tommy Dorsey
Thomas Francis "Tommy" Dorsey, Jr. was an American jazz trombonist, trumpeter, composer, and bandleader of the Big Band era. He was known as "The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing", due to his smooth-toned trombone playing. He was the younger brother of bandleader Jimmy Dorsey...

. It was again on the charts at #13 in 1953 for The Four Tunes
The Four Tunes
The Four Tunes were a leading black pop vocal quartet during the 1950s. The members at the peak of their fame were William "Pat" Best, Jimmy Gordon, Jimmie Nabbie, and Danny Owens.-Career:...

 and at #15 for the Bachelors
The Bachelors
The Bachelors are a popular music group, originating from Dublin, Ireland.-Career:The founding members of the group were Conleth Cluskey , Declan Cluskey , and John Stokes...

 in 1965–36 years after its first appearance.

"Puttin' on the Ritz
Puttin' on the Ritz
"Puttin' on the Ritz" is a popular song written and published in 1929 by Irving Berlin and introduced by Harry Richman in the musical film Puttin' on the Ritz . The title derives from the slang expression "putting on the Ritz," meaning to dress very fashionably. The expression was inspired by the...

" (1930)
An instant standard with one of Berlin's most "intricately syncopated choruses," this song is associated with Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire was an American film and Broadway stage dancer, choreographer, singer and actor. His stage and subsequent film career spanned a total of 76 years, during which he made 31 musical films. He was named the fifth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute...

, who danced to it in the 1946 film "Blue Skies." It was first sung by Harry Richman
Harry Richman
Harry Richman was an American entertainer. He was a singer, actor, dancer, comedian, pianist, songwriter, bandleader, and night club performer, at his most popular in the 1920s and 1930s....

 in 1930 and became a #1 hit, and in 1939 Clark Gable
Clark Gable
William Clark Gable , known as Clark Gable, was an American film actor most famous for his role as Rhett Butler in the 1939 Civil War epic film Gone with the Wind, in which he starred with Vivien Leigh...

 sang it in the movie "Idiot's Delight." It was also featured in the movie Young Frankenstein
Young Frankenstein
Young Frankenstein is a 1974 American comedy film directed by Mel Brooks and starring Gene Wilder as the title character, a descendant of the infamous Dr. Victor Frankenstein. The supporting cast includes Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, Richard...

 by Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks is an American film director, screenwriter, composer, lyricist, comedian, actor and producer. He is best known as a creator of broad film farces and comic parodies. He began his career as a stand-up comic and as a writer for the early TV variety show Your Show of Shows...

 and a #4 hit for the techno artist Taco in 1983 (Berlin thus became the oldest songwriter to have a current top Ten hit).

"Say It Isn't So" (1932)
Rudy Vallee
Rudy Vallée
Rudy Vallée was an American singer, actor, bandleader, and entertainer.-Early life:Born Hubert Prior Vallée in Island Pond, Vermont, the son of Charles Alphonse and Catherine Lynch Vallée...

 performed it on his radio show, and the song was a #1 hit for George Olsen
George Olsen
George Edward Olsen, Sr. was an American band-leader.Born in Portland, Oregon, he played the drums and attended the University of Michigan, where he was drum major. Here he formed his band, George Olsen and his Music, which continued in the Portland area...

 and awarded top-10 positions with versions by Connee Boswell
Connee Boswell
Constance Foore "Connee" Boswell was an American female vocalist born in Kansas City but raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. With her sisters, Martha and Helvetia "Vet" Boswell, she performed in the 1930s as The Boswell Sisters and became a highly influential singing group during this period via...

 and Ozzie Nelson
Ozzie Nelson
Oswald George "Ozzie" Nelson was an American entertainer and band leader who originated and starred in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet radio and television series with his wife and two sons.-Early life:...

's band. In 1963 Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin
Aretha Louise Franklin is an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. Although known for her soul recordings and referred to as The Queen of Soul, Franklin is also adept at jazz, blues, R&B, gospel music, and rock. Rolling Stone magazine ranked her atop its list of The Greatest Singers of All...

 produced a single of the song in 1963–31 years later. Furia notes that when Rudy Vallee first introduced the song on his radio show, the "song not only became an overnight hit, it saved Vallee's marriage: The Vallees had planned to get a divorce, but after Vallee sang Berlin's romantic lyrics on the air, "both he and his wife dissolved in tears" and decided to stay together.

"I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" (1937)
Performed by Dick Powell
Dick Powell
Richard Ewing "Dick" Powell was an American singer, actor, producer, director and studio boss.Despite the same last name he was not related to William Powell, Eleanor Powell or Jane Powell.-Biography:...

 in the 1937 film "On the Avenue." Later it had four top-12 versions, including by Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Nicknamed "Lady Day" by her friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing...

 and Les Brown
Les Brown (bandleader)
Les Brown, Sr. and the Band of Renown are a big band that began in the late 1930s, initially as the group Les Brown and His Blue Devils that Brown led while a student at Duke University. He was the first president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences...

, who took it to #1.

"God Bless America" (1938)



Written by Berlin twenty years earlier, he filed it away until 1938, when Kate Smith
Kate Smith
Kathryn Elizabeth "Kate" Smith was an American Popular singer, best known for her rendition of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America". Smith had a radio, television, and recording career spanning five decades, which reached its pinnacle in the 1940s.Smith was born in Greenville, Virginia...

's manager asked Berlin if he had a patriotic song Smith might sing to mark the 20th anniversary of Armistice Day
Armistice Day
Armistice Day is on 11 November and commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning—the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day...

. It was "a simple plea for divine protection in a dark time—a plangent anthem in just 40 words," writes Corliss. It quickly became the second National Anthem after America entered World War II and over the decades has earned millions for the Boy Scout
Boy Scout
A Scout is a boy or a girl, usually 11 to 18 years of age, participating in the worldwide Scouting movement. Because of the large age and development span, many Scouting associations have split this age group into a junior and a senior section...

s and Girl Scouts
Girl Scouts of the USA
The Girl Scouts of the United States of America is a youth organization for girls in the United States and American girls living abroad. It describes itself as "the world's preeminent organization dedicated solely to girls". It was founded by Juliette Gordon Low in 1912 and was organized after Low...

, to whom Berlin assigned all royalties. The phrase "God Bless America" was taken from Berlin's mother:

While he was growing up on the Lower East Side, she would say "God bless America" often, to indicate that, without America, her family would have had no place to go. The Economist magazine wrote that by writing "God Bless America", Berlin was "producing a deep-felt paean to the country that had given him what he would have said was everything. It is a melody that still makes his fellow countrymen want to stand up and place their hands over their hearts."


On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, U.S. senators and congressmen stood on the capitol steps and sang it after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center
World Trade Center
The original World Trade Center was a complex with seven buildings featuring landmark twin towers in Lower Manhattan, New York City, United States. The complex opened on April 4, 1973, and was destroyed in 2001 during the September 11 attacks. The site is currently being rebuilt with five new...

. Two nights later, when Broadway turned its lights back on, the casts of numerous shows led theatergoers in renditions of the same song.

Richard Corliss notes that the next day, at an official requiem at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, it was played by the U.S. Army Orchestra. The following Monday, to mark the reopening of the New York Stock Exchange
New York Stock Exchange
The New York Stock Exchange is a stock exchange located at 11 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan, New York City, USA. It is by far the world's largest stock exchange by market capitalization of its listed companies at 13.39 trillion as of Dec 2010...

, New York Governor George Pataki
George Pataki
George Elmer Pataki is an American politician who was the 53rd Governor of New York. A member of the Republican Party, Pataki served three consecutive four-year terms from January 1, 1995 until December 31, 2006.- Early life :...

 and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani joined traders in singing it. That evening, as major league baseball games resumed around the country it replaced "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" as the theme song of the seventh-inning stretch. Over the following weeks, everyone—Celine Dion
Celine Dion
Céline Marie Claudette Dion, , , is a Canadian singer. Born to a large family from Charlemagne, Quebec, Dion emerged as a teen star in the French-speaking world after her manager and future husband René Angélil mortgaged his home to finance her first record...

, Marc Anthony
Marc Anthony
Marc Anthony is an American singer-songwriter, actor and producer. Anthony is the top selling tropical salsa artist of all time. The two-time Grammy and three-time Latin Grammy–winner has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. He is best known for his Latin salsa numbers and ballads...

, New York City Police Department
New York City Police Department
The New York City Police Department , established in 1845, is currently the largest municipal police force in the United States, with primary responsibilities in law enforcement and investigation within the five boroughs of New York City...

 officer Daniel Rodriguez
Daniel Rodriguez
Daniel Rodríguez is an American operatic tenor from New York City. He became known as "The Singing Policeman" in his former work with the New York City Police Department, due to his role as one of the department's designated National Anthem singers...

, the whole country—sang "God Bless America
God Bless America
"God Bless America" is an American patriotic song written by Irving Berlin in 1918 and revised by him in 1938. The later version has notably been recorded by Kate Smith, becoming her signature song ....

".

Describing the mood at the time and the significance of the song, Corliss wrote in Time magazine that December:

In times of crisis, the nation loses its short-term cultural memory—puts aside idiot movie comics, suicidal rock lyrics, must-see reality TV and the pursuit of the moral triviality that is Gary Condit
Gary Condit
Gary Adrian Condit is a former American politician, a Democrat who served in the House of Representatives from 1989 to 2003...

—and, like a senior citizen finding solace in the distant past, rekindles that old feeling. In pop culture, at least for a while, many Americans traded in cool pop culture for warm, sarcasm for sentiment, alienation for community. In the blink of a national tragedy, we went from jaded to nice, just like that.


The popularity of the song, when it was first introduced in 1938, was also related to its release near the end of the Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, which had gone on for nine years. As a result, one writer concludes that the song's introduction at that time "enshrines a strain of official patriotism intertwined with a religious faith that runs deep in the American psyche. Patriotic razzle-dazzle, sophisticated melancholy and humble sentiments: Berlin songs span the emotional terrain of America with a thoroughness that others may have equaled but none have surpassed."

The song has also been adopted by various sports teams over the years. The Philadelphia Flyers
Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers are a professional ice hockey team based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They are members of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League...

 hockey team started playing it before crucial contests and won some 80% of those games—including all three when Kate Smith
Kate Smith
Kathryn Elizabeth "Kate" Smith was an American Popular singer, best known for her rendition of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America". Smith had a radio, television, and recording career spanning five decades, which reached its pinnacle in the 1940s.Smith was born in Greenville, Virginia...

 arrived to sing it in person. "Many credited Smith for lifting the crowd and the team to new heights," notes columnist John Bacon. When the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team
Ice hockey at the Olympic Games
Ice hockey tournaments have been staged at the Olympic Games since 1920. The men's tournament was introduced at the 1920 Summer Olympics and was transferred permanently to the Winter Olympic Games programme in 1924. The women's tournament was first held at the 1998 Winter Olympics...

 pulled off the "greatest upset in sports history," referred to as the "Miracle on Ice
Miracle on Ice
The "Miracle on Ice" is the name in American popular culture for a medal-round men's ice hockey game during the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York, on Friday, February 22...

", the players spontaneously broke into a chorus—not of "The Star Spangled Banner," but "God Bless America," with ESPN
ESPN
Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, commonly known as ESPN, is an American global cable television network focusing on sports-related programming including live and pre-taped event telecasts, sports talk shows, and other original programming....

 TV noting, "Americans were overcome by patriotism."

Other songs


Though most of his works for the Broadway stage took the form of revues—collections of songs with no unifying plot—he did write a number of book shows. The Cocoanuts
The Cocoanuts
The Cocoanuts is the first feature-length Marx Brothers film, produced by Paramount Pictures. The musical comedy stars the four Marx Brothers, Oscar Shaw, Mary Eaton, and Margaret Dumont. Produced by Walter Wanger and the first sound movie to credit more than one director , and was adapted to the...

(1925) was a light comedy with a cast featuring, among others, the Marx Brothers
Marx Brothers
The Marx Brothers were an American family comedy act, originally from New York City, that enjoyed success in Vaudeville, Broadway, and motion pictures from the early 1900s to around 1950...

. Face the Music
Face the Music (musical)
Face the Music is a musical, the first collaboration between Moss Hart and Irving Berlin . Face the Music opened on Broadway in 1932, and has had several subsequent regional and New York stagings...

(1932) was a political satire with a book by Moss Hart
Moss Hart
Moss Hart was an American playwright and theatre director, best known for his interpretations of musical theater on Broadway.-Early years:...

, and Louisiana Purchase
Louisiana Purchase
The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition by the United States of America of of France's claim to the territory of Louisiana in 1803. The U.S...

 (1940) was a satire of a Southern politician obviously based on the exploits of Huey Long
Huey Long
Huey Pierce Long, Jr. , nicknamed The Kingfish, served as the 40th Governor of Louisiana from 1928–1932 and as a U.S. Senator from 1932 to 1935. A Democrat, he was noted for his radical populist policies. Though a backer of Franklin D...

. As Thousands Cheer
As Thousands Cheer
As Thousands Cheer is a revue with a book by Moss Hart and music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, first performed in 1933. The revue contained satirical sketches and witty or poignant musical numbers, several of which became standards, including "Heat Wave", "Easter Parade" and "Harlem on my Mind." ...

(1933) was a revue, also with book by Moss Hart, with a theme: each number was presented as an item in a newspaper, some of them touching on issues of the day. The show yielded a succession of hit songs, including "Easter Parade
Easter Parade (song)
"Easter Parade" is a popular song that was written by Irving Berlin and was published in 1933. The lyrics describe the singer's involvement in an American cultural event called the Easter parade....

" sung by Marilyn Miller and William Gaxton, "Heat Wave
Heat Wave (song)
"Heat Wave" is a popular song. It was written by Irving Berlin for the 1933 musical As Thousands Cheer, and introduced in the show by Ethel Waters....

" (presented as the weather forecast), "Harlem on My Mind", and "Supper Time
Supper Time
"Supper Time" is a popular song written by Irving Berlin for the 1933 musical As Thousands Cheer, where it was introduced by Ethel Waters.It is about a wife's reaction to news of her husband's lynching.-Notable recordings:...

", a song about racial bigotry that was sung by Ethel Waters
Ethel Waters
Ethel Waters was an American blues, jazz and gospel vocalist and actress. She frequently performed jazz, big band, and pop music, on the Broadway stage and in concerts, although she began her career in the 1920s singing blues.Her best-known recordings includes, "Dinah", "Birmingham Bertha",...

.

World War II patriotism—"This is the Army" (1943)



When the U.S. joined World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 after the attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 in December, 1941, Berlin immediately began composing a number of patriotic songs. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau
Henry Morgenthau, Jr.
Henry Morgenthau, Jr. was the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He played a major role in designing and financing the New Deal...

 requested a song to inspire Americans to buy war bond
War bond
War bonds are debt securities issued by a government for the purpose of financing military operations during times of war. War bonds generate capital for the government and make civilians feel involved in their national militaries...

s, for which he wrote "Any Bonds Today?" He assigned all royalties to the United States Treasury Department. He then wrote songs for various government agencies and likewise assigned all profits to them: "Angels of Mercy" for the American Red Cross
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross , also known as the American National Red Cross, is a volunteer-led, humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief and education inside the United States. It is the designated U.S...

; "Arms for the Love of America," for the Army Ordnance Department; and "I Paid My Taxes Today," again to Treasury.

But his most notable and valuable contribution to the war effort was a stage show he wrote called "This is the Army
This Is the Army
This Is the Army is a 1943 American wartime motion picture produced by Hal B. Wallis and Jack L. Warner, and directed by Michael Curtiz, and a wartime musical designed to boost morale in the U.S. during World War II, directed by Sgt. Ezra Stone...

". It was taken to Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 and then on to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 (where President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 attended). It was eventually shown at military bases throughout the world, including London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, North Africa, Italy, Middle East, and Pacific countries, sometimes in close proximity to battle zones. Berlin wrote nearly three dozen songs for the show which contained a cast of 300 men. He supervised the production and traveled with it, always singing "Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning
Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning
"Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning" is a song written by Irving Berlin in 1918 that gives a comic perspective on military life. Berlin composed the song as an expression of protest against the indignities of Army routine shortly after being drafted into the United States Army in 1918...

". The show kept him away from his family for three and a half years, during which time he took neither salary nor expenses, and turned over all profits to the Army Emergency Relief Fund.
The play was adapted into a movie of the same name in 1943, directed by Michael Curtiz
Michael Curtiz
Michael Curtiz was an Academy award winning Hungarian-American film director. He had early creditsas Mihály Kertész and Michael Kertész...

, costarring Joan Leslie
Joan Leslie
Joan Leslie is a retired American film and television actress.-Early life:Leslie was born Joan Agnes Theresa Sadie Brodel in Detroit, Michigan, and raised Roman Catholic. She began performing as a singer at the age of nine as part of a vaudeville act with her two sisters; Betty and Mae Brodel...

 and Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

, who was then an army lieutenant. Kate Smith
Kate Smith
Kathryn Elizabeth "Kate" Smith was an American Popular singer, best known for her rendition of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America". Smith had a radio, television, and recording career spanning five decades, which reached its pinnacle in the 1940s.Smith was born in Greenville, Virginia...

 also sang "God Bless America" in the film with a backdrop showing families anxious over the coming war. The show became a hit movie and a morale-boosting road show that toured the battlefronts of Europe. The shows and movie combined raised more than $10 million for the Army, and in recognition of his contributions to troop morale, Berlin was awarded the Medal of Merit by President Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

. His daughter, Mary Ellin Barrett
Mary Ellin Barrett
Mary Ellin Barrett, oldest daughter of composer Irving Berlin, was born on November 25, 1926. She grew up in New York City, where she attended the Brearley School. She then went to Barnard College, majoring in music. After graduation, she began to work for Time Magazine, where she met her future...

, who was 15 when she was at the opening-night performance of "This is the Army
This Is the Army
This Is the Army is a 1943 American wartime motion picture produced by Hal B. Wallis and Jack L. Warner, and directed by Michael Curtiz, and a wartime musical designed to boost morale in the U.S. during World War II, directed by Sgt. Ezra Stone...

" on Broadway, remembered that when her father, who normally shunned the spotlight, appeared in the second act in soldier's garb to sing "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning," he was greeted with a standing ovation that lasted 10 minutes. She adds that he was in his mid-50's at the time, and later declared those years with the show were the "most thrilling time of his life."

"Annie Get Your Gun" (1946)


The grueling tours Berlin did performing "This Is The Army" left him exhausted. But his old and close friend Jerome Kern
Jerome Kern
Jerome David Kern was an American composer of musical theatre and popular music. One of the most important American theatre composers of the early 20th century, he wrote more than 700 songs, used in over 100 stage works, including such classics as "Ol' Man River", "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man", "A...

, who was the composer for "Annie Get Your Gun," suddenly died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Producers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II persuaded Berlin to take over composing the score.

Loosely based on the life of sharpshooter Annie Oakley
Annie Oakley
Annie Oakley , born Phoebe Ann Mosey, was an American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter. Oakley's amazing talent and timely rise to fame led to a starring role in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, which propelled her to become the first American female superstar.Oakley's most famous trick is perhaps...

, the music and lyrics were written by Berlin, with a book by Herbert Fields
Herbert Fields
Herbert Fields was an American librettist and screenwriter.Born in New York City, Fields began his career as an actor, then graduated to choreography and stage direction before turning to writing. From 1925 until his death, he contributed to the libretti of many Broadway musicals...

 and his sister Dorothy Fields
Dorothy Fields
Dorothy Fields was an American librettist and lyricist.She wrote over 400 songs for Broadway musicals and films...

. At first he refused to take on the job, claiming that he knew nothing about "hillbilly
Hillbilly
Hillbilly is a term referring to certain people who dwell in rural, mountainous areas of the United States, primarily Appalachia but also the Ozarks. Owing to its strongly stereotypical connotations, the term is frequently considered derogatory, and so is usually offensive to those Americans of...

 music", but the show ran for 1,147 performances and became his most successful score. It is said that the showstopper song, "There's No Business Like Show Business", was almost left out of the show altogether because Berlin mistakenly thought that Rodgers and Hammerstein didn't like it. However, it became the "ultimate uptempo show tune." One reviewer stating that "Its tough wisecracking lyrics are as tersely all-knowing as its melody, which is nailed down in brassy syncopated lines that have been copied -but never equaled in sheer melodic memorability—by hundreds of theater composers ever since." McCorkle writes that the score "meant more to me than ever, now that I knew that he wrote it after a grueling world tour and years of separation from his wife and daughters."

Historian and composer Alec Wilder
Alec Wilder
Alec Wilder was an American composer.-Biography:...

 noted the difference between this score and Berlin's much earlier works:

To hear... that "Alexander's Ragtime Band" (1911) was the hit of Vienna and probably every large city of Europe by late 1912, and then to realize that the writer of this song, forty years later, wrote the nearly perfect score of Annie Get Your Gun, comes as a profound shock.


Apparently the "creative spurt" in which Berlin turned out several songs for the score in a single weekend was an anomaly. According to this daughter, he usually "sweated blood" to write his songs. Annie Get Your Gun
Annie Get Your Gun (musical)
Annie Get Your Gun is a musical with lyrics and music written by Irving Berlin and a book by Herbert Fields and his sister Dorothy Fields. The story is a fictionalized version of the life of Annie Oakley , who was a sharpshooter from Ohio, and her husband, Frank Butler.The 1946 Broadway production...

is considered to be Berlin's best musical theatre score not only because of the number of hits it contains, but because its songs successfully combine character and plot development. The song "There's No Business Like Show Business" became "Ethel Merman
Ethel Merman
Ethel Merman was an American actress and singer. Known primarily for her powerful voice and roles in musical theatre, she has been called "the undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage." Among the many standards introduced by Merman in Broadway musicals are "I Got Rhythm", "Everything's...

's trademark."

Final shows


Berlin's next show, Miss Liberty
Miss Liberty
Miss Liberty is a musical with a book by Robert E. Sherwood and music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. It is based on the sculpting of the Statue of Liberty in 1886...

(1949), was disappointing, but Call Me Madam
Call Me Madam
Call Me Madam is a musical with a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse and music and lyrics by Irving Berlin.A satire on politics and foreign affairs that spoofs America's penchant for lending billions of dollars to needy countries, it centers on Sally Adams, a well-meaning but ill-informed...

in 1950, starring Ethel Merman
Ethel Merman
Ethel Merman was an American actress and singer. Known primarily for her powerful voice and roles in musical theatre, she has been called "the undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage." Among the many standards introduced by Merman in Broadway musicals are "I Got Rhythm", "Everything's...

 as Sally Adams, a Washington, D.C. socialite, loosely based the famous Washington hostess Perle Mesta
Perle Mesta
Perle Skirvin Mesta was an American socialite, political hostess, and U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg ....

, fared better, giving him his second greatest success. After a failed attempt at retirement, in 1962, at the age of 74, he returned to Broadway with Mr. President
Mr. President (musical)
Mr. President is a musical with a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse and lyrics and music by Irving Berlin.It focuses on U.S. President Stephen Decatur Henderson, who loses his bid for re-election following a disastrous trip to the Soviet Union...

. Although it ran for eight months, (with the premiere attended by President John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

), it did not become a successful show. But as Richard Corliss points out, it did at least prove that Berlin was still the "uncomplicated lover of the country that had adopted and enriched him . . . [and] his feelings were most directly expressed" by the lyrics to the song, "This Is a Great Country:"
Hats off to America,
The home of the free and the brave—
If this is flag waving,
Flag waving,
Do you know of a better flag to wave?


Afterwards, Berlin officially announced his retirement and spent his remaining years in New York.

1920s–1950s



In 1922, Madame Butterfly was his first composing film debut. In 1927, his song "Blue Skies
Blue Skies (song)
-History:The song was composed in 1926 as a last minute addition to the Rodgers and Hart musical, Betsy. Although the show only ran for 39 performances, "Blue Skies" was an instant success, with audiences on opening night demanding 24 encores of the piece from star, Belle Baker. During the final...

", was featured in the first feature-length talkie, The Jazz Singer
The Jazz Singer (1927 film)
The Jazz Singer is a 1927 American musical film. The first feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue sequences, its release heralded the commercial ascendance of the "talkies" and the decline of the silent film era. Produced by Warner Bros. with its Vitaphone sound-on-disc system,...

, with Al Jolson
Al Jolson
Al Jolson was an American singer, comedian and actor. In his heyday, he was dubbed "The World's Greatest Entertainer"....

. Later, movies like Top Hat
Top Hat
Top Hat is a 1935 screwball comedy musical film in which Fred Astaire plays an American dancer named Jerry Travers, who comes to London to star in a show produced by Horace Hardwick . He meets and attempts to impress Dale Tremont to win her affection...

(1935) became the first of a series of distinctive film musicals by Berlin starring performers like Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby was an American singer and actor. Crosby's trademark bass-baritone voice made him one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century, with over half a billion records in circulation....

, Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire was an American film and Broadway stage dancer, choreographer, singer and actor. His stage and subsequent film career spanned a total of 76 years, during which he made 31 musical films. He was named the fifth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute...

, Judy Garland
Judy Garland
Judy Garland was an American actress and singer. Through a career that spanned 45 of her 47 years and for her renowned contralto voice, she attained international stardom as an actress in musical and dramatic roles, as a recording artist and on the concert stage...

, Ginger Rogers
Ginger Rogers
Ginger Rogers was an American actress, dancer, and singer who appeared in film, and on stage, radio, and television throughout much of the 20th century....

, and Alice Faye
Alice Faye
Alice Faye was an American actress and singer, called by The New York Times "one of the few movie stars to walk away from stardom at the peak of her career." She is remembered first for her stardom at 20th Century Fox and, later, as the radio comedy partner of her husband, bandleader and comedian...

. They usually had light romantic plots and a seemingly endless string of his new and old songs. Similar films included On the Avenue
On the Avenue
On the Avenue is a 1937 American musical film directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring Dick Powell, Madeleine Carroll, and Alice Faye. All of the songs in this film were composed by Irving Berlin.-Plot:...

(1937), Gold Diggers in Paris
Gold Diggers in Paris
Gold Diggers in Paris is a 1938 Warner Bros. movie musical directed by Ray Enright with musical numbers created and directed by Busby Berkeley, starring Rudy Vallee, Rosemary Lane, Hugh Herbert and Allen Jenkins.-Plot:...

 (1938)
, Holiday Inn
Holiday Inn (film)
Holiday Inn is a 1942 American musical film starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, with music by Irving Berlin. The film has twelve songs written expressly for the film, the most notable being "White Christmas"...

(1942), Blue Skies
Blue Skies (film)
Blue Skies is a 1946 Hollywood musical Technicolor comedy film, released by Paramount Pictures and starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Joan Caulfield, Olga San Juan and Billy De Wolfe, with music, lyrics and story by Irving Berlin; most of the songs were recycled from earlier works. The film was...

(1946), and Easter Parade (1948), with Judy Garland
Judy Garland
Judy Garland was an American actress and singer. Through a career that spanned 45 of her 47 years and for her renowned contralto voice, she attained international stardom as an actress in musical and dramatic roles, as a recording artist and on the concert stage...

 and Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire was an American film and Broadway stage dancer, choreographer, singer and actor. His stage and subsequent film career spanned a total of 76 years, during which he made 31 musical films. He was named the fifth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute...

.

"White Christmas" (1942)


The 1942 film Holiday Inn
Holiday Inn (film)
Holiday Inn is a 1942 American musical film starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, with music by Irving Berlin. The film has twelve songs written expressly for the film, the most notable being "White Christmas"...

introduced "White Christmas
White Christmas (song)
"White Christmas" is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide.Accounts vary as...

", one of the most recorded songs in history. First sung in the film by Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby was an American singer and actor. Crosby's trademark bass-baritone voice made him one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century, with over half a billion records in circulation....

, it sold over 30 million records and stayed #1 on the pop and R&B charts for 10 weeks. Crosby's single was the best-selling single in any music category for more than fifty years. Music critic Stephen Holden
Stephen Holden
Stephen Holden is an American writer, music critic, film critic, and poet.Holden earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Yale University in 1963...

 credits this partly to the fact that "the song also evokes a primal nostalgia—a pure childlike longing for roots, home and childhood—that goes way beyond the greeting imagery."

Richard Corliss
Richard Corliss
Richard Nelson Corliss is a writer for Time magazine who focuses on movies, with the occasional article on music or sports. Corliss is the former editor-in-chief of Film Comment...

 also notes that the song was even more significant having been released soon after America entered World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

: [it] "connected with... GIs in their first winter away from home. To them it voiced the ache of separation and the wistfulness they felt for the girl back home, for the innocence of youth...." Poet Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg was an American writer and editor, best known for his poetry. He won three Pulitzer Prizes, two for his poetry and another for a biography of Abraham Lincoln. H. L. Mencken called Carl Sandburg "indubitably an American in every pulse-beat."-Biography:Sandburg was born in Galesburg,...

 said, "Way down under this latest hit of his, Irving Berlin catches us where we love peace."

"White Christmas" won Berlin the Academy Award
Academy Awards
An Academy Award, also known as an Oscar, is an accolade bestowed by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers...

 for Best Music in an Original Song, one of seven Oscar nominations he received during his career. In subsequent years, it was re-recorded and became a top-10 seller for numerous artists: Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

, Jo Stafford
Jo Stafford
Jo Elizabeth Stafford was an American singer of traditional pop music and jazz standards and occasional actress whose career ran from the late 1930s to the early 1960s...

, Ernest Tubb
Ernest Tubb
Ernest Dale Tubb , nicknamed the Texas Troubadour, was an American singer and songwriter and one of the pioneers of country music. His biggest career hit song, "Walking the Floor Over You" , marked the rise of the honky tonk style of music...

, The Ravens
The Ravens
The Ravens were an American R&B vocal group, formed in 1946 by Jimmy Ricks and Warren Suttles. They were one of the most successful and most influential vocal quartets of the period, and had several hits on the R&B chart in the late 1940s and early 1950s....

, and The Drifters
The Drifters
The Drifters are a long-lived American doo-wop and R&B/soul vocal group with a peak in popularity from 1953 to 1963, though several splinter Drifters continue to perform today. They were originally formed to serve as Clyde McPhatter's backing group in 1953...

. It would also be the last time a Berlin song went to #1 upon its release.

Talking about Irving Berlin's "White Christmas", composer–lyricist Garrison Hintz stated that although songwriting can be a complicated process, its final result should sound simplistic. Considering the fact that "White Christmas" has only eight sentences in the entire song, lyrically Mr. Berlin achieved all that was necessary to eventually sell over 100 million copies and capture the hearts of the American public at the same time.

Songwriting methods


According to Saul Bornstein, Berlin's publishing company manager, "It was a ritual for Berlin to write a complete song, words and music, every day." Berlin has said that he "does not believe in inspiration," and feels that although he may be gifted in certain areas, his "most successful compositions were the "result of work." In an interview in 1916, when he was 28, he said:

I do most of my work under pressure. When I have a song to write I go home at night, and after dinner about 8 I begin to work. Sometimes I keep at it till 4 or 5 in the morning. I do most of my writing at night, and although I have lived in the same apartment four years there has never been a complaint from any of my neighbors.... Each day I would attend rehearsals and at night write another song and bring it down the next day.


Not always certain about his own writing abilities, he once asked a songwriter friend, Mr. Herbert, whether he should study composition. "You have a natural gift for words and music," Mr. Herbert told him. "Learning theory might help you a little, but it could cramp your style." Berlin took his advice. Herbert later became a moving force behind the creation of ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. In 1914, Berlin joined him as a charter member of the organization that has protected the royalties of composers and writers ever since.

Years later, he was asked whether he ever studied lyrical writing:

I never have, because if I don't know them I do not have to observe any rules and can do as I like, which is much better for me than if I allowed myself to be governed by the rules of versification. In following my own method I can make my jingles fit my music or vice versa with no qualms as to their correctness. Usually I compose my tunes and then fit words to them, though sometimes it's the other way about.


In later years he would emphasize his conviction, saying that "it's the lyric that makes a song a hit, although the tune, of course, is what makes it last."

According to music historian Alec Wilder, it was well known that Berlin, unable to write his own music, paid a professional musician to harmonize and write his music, but always did so under his close supervision. He notes that "though Berlin may seldom have played acceptable harmony, he nevertheless, by some mastery of his inner ear, senses it, in fact writes many of his melodies with this natural, intuitive harmonic sense at work in his head, but not in his hands."

As a result, Wilder concludes that many admirers of the music of Jerome Kern
Jerome Kern
Jerome David Kern was an American composer of musical theatre and popular music. One of the most important American theatre composers of the early 20th century, he wrote more than 700 songs, used in over 100 stage works, including such classics as "Ol' Man River", "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man", "A...

, Richard Rodgers
Richard Rodgers
Richard Charles Rodgers was an American composer of music for more than 900 songs and for 43 Broadway musicals. He also composed music for films and television. He is best known for his songwriting partnerships with the lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II...

, and Cole Porter
Cole Porter
Cole Albert Porter was an American composer and songwriter. Born to a wealthy family in Indiana, he defied the wishes of his domineering grandfather and took up music as a profession. Classically trained, he was drawn towards musical theatre...

 were unlikely to consider Berlin's work in the same category. But he feels that was due primarily to "forgetfulness and confusion," making them inclined to minimize his talent. He writes:

They forget "Soft Lights and Sweet Music,' 'Supper Time,' and 'Cheek to Cheek' because they are confused by his also having written 'What'll I Do?' and 'Always.' The solid, straightforward pop songs of Berlin are minor masterpieces of economy, clarity, and memorability. But they give little hint of the much more sophisticated aspects of his talent as it is revealed in his theater and film music.


Wilder tries to describe the source of Berlin's gift for songwriting: "In his lyrics as in his melodies, Berlin reveals a constant awareness of the world around him: the pulse of the times, the society in which his is functioning. There is nothing of the hothouse about his work, urban though it may be."

Music styles



Music critic Stephen Holden
Stephen Holden
Stephen Holden is an American writer, music critic, film critic, and poet.Holden earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Yale University in 1963...

 writes that composer Jerome Kern
Jerome Kern
Jerome David Kern was an American composer of musical theatre and popular music. One of the most important American theatre composers of the early 20th century, he wrote more than 700 songs, used in over 100 stage works, including such classics as "Ol' Man River", "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man", "A...

 recognized that the essence of Irving Berlin's lyrics was his "faith in the American vernacular" and was so profound that his best-known songs "seem indivisible from the country's history and self-image." He adds that where the songs of Kern, George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

, Richard Rodgers
Richard Rodgers
Richard Charles Rodgers was an American composer of music for more than 900 songs and for 43 Broadway musicals. He also composed music for films and television. He is best known for his songwriting partnerships with the lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II...

, Oscar Hammerstein II
Oscar Hammerstein II
Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein II was an American librettist, theatrical producer, and theatre director of musicals for almost forty years. Hammerstein won eight Tony Awards and was twice awarded an Academy Award for "Best Original Song". Many of his songs are standard repertoire for...

 and Cole Porter
Cole Porter
Cole Albert Porter was an American composer and songwriter. Born to a wealthy family in Indiana, he defied the wishes of his domineering grandfather and took up music as a profession. Classically trained, he was drawn towards musical theatre...

 brought together Afro-American, Latin American, rural pop, and European operetta, Berlin's music "did not strive to be lofty in that way." He adds that "The best of it is a simple, exquisitely crafted street song whose diction feels so natural that one scarcely notices the craft.... For all of their innovation, they seem to flow straight out of the rhythms and inflections of everyday speech."
Wilder also explains Berlin's style of writing:

Whatever idealism some of his songs revealed, the core of his work has been eminently practical: his has been truly a body of work... his approach to songwriting is that of a craftsman rather than a composer.... I have been searching assiduously for stylistic characteristics in Berlin, but I can't find any. I find great songs, good songs, average songs, and commercial songs. But I find no clue to a single, or even duple, point of view in the music.


Berlin did state a stylistic goal early in his career: to write a "syncopated operetta." He said, "If I were assigned the task of writing an American opera I should not follow the style of the masters, whose melodies can never be surpassed. Instead I would write a syncopated opera, which, if it failed, would at least possess the merit of novelty. That is what I really want to do eventually—write a syncopated operetta." Two decades later, composer George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

 wrote, "I have learned many things from Irving Berlin, but the most precious lesson has been that ragtime—or jazz, as its more developed state was later called—was the only musical idiom in existence that could aptly express America."

Many musicians and music historians have attempted to define the qualities about Berlin's songs that made them unique. Gershwin once tried:

His music has that vitality—both rhythmic and melodic—which never seems to lose any of its exuberant freshness; it has that rich, colorful melodic flow which is ever the wonder of all those of who, too, compose songs; his ideas are endless.


Among Berlin's contemporaries was Cole Porter
Cole Porter
Cole Albert Porter was an American composer and songwriter. Born to a wealthy family in Indiana, he defied the wishes of his domineering grandfather and took up music as a profession. Classically trained, he was drawn towards musical theatre...

, whose music style was often considered more "witty, sophisticated, [and] dirty," according to musicologist Susannah McCorkle
Susannah McCorkle
Susannah McCorkle was an American jazz singer much admired for her direct, unadorned singing style and quiet intensity.-Biography:...

. Of the five top songwriters, only Porter and Berlin wrote both their words and music. However, she notes that Porter, unlike Berlin, was a Yale
YALE
RapidMiner, formerly YALE , is an environment for machine learning, data mining, text mining, predictive analytics, and business analytics. It is used for research, education, training, rapid prototyping, application development, and industrial applications...

-educated and wealthy Midwesterner whose songs were not successful until he was in his thirties. However, she notes that it was "Berlin [who] got Porter the show that launched his career."

During the early 1940s, Berlin became an enthusiastic reader of works by the 18th century English poet, Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

. He had a genuine "enthusiasm for Pope's lean, compact heroic couplets." He felt that Pope would have made a "brilliant lyric writer."

In 2000, composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Joshua Sondheim is an American composer and lyricist for stage and film. He is the winner of an Academy Award, multiple Tony Awards including the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, multiple Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the Laurence Olivier Award...

 reflected on the greatest songs in the American Songbook, noting "What distinguishes Berlin is the brilliance of his lyrics. 'You Can't Get a Man With a Gun'—that's as good a comic song as has ever been written by anybody. You look at the jokes and how quickly they're told, and it still has a plot to it. It's sophisticated and very underrated."

Marriages


In 1912, he married Dorothy Goetz
Dorothy Goetz
Dorothy Goetz was the first wife of the famous songwriter, Irving Berlin.She was twenty years old when she met Berlin in New York City where her older brother singer and lyricist Ray Goetz had been collaborating on some tunes with Berlin...

, the sister of the songwriter E. Ray Goetz
E. Ray Goetz
Edward Ray Goetz was an American composer, songwriter, author and producer. He was a charter member of ASCAP in 1914, and was a director until 1917. Goetz appeared in the films Somebody Loves Me , The Greatest Show On Earth and For Me And My Gal . He wrote the songs "Toddling The Todalo" and "For...

. She died six months later of typhoid fever
Typhoid fever
Typhoid fever, also known as Typhoid, is a common worldwide bacterial disease, transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the feces of an infected person, which contain the bacterium Salmonella enterica, serovar Typhi...

, which she contracted during their honeymoon in Havana
Havana
Havana is the capital city, province, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of — making it the largest city in the Caribbean region, and the most populous...

. The song he wrote to express his grief, "When I Lost You," was his first ballad.
Years later in the 1920s, he fell in love with a young heiress, Ellin Mackay, the daughter of Clarence Mackay, the socially prominent head of the Postal Telegraph Cable Company. Because Berlin was Jewish and she was Catholic, their life was followed in every possible detail by the press, which found the romance of an immigrant from the Lower East Side and a young heiress a good story.

They met in 1925, and her father opposed the match from the start. He went so far as to send her off to Europe to find other suitors and forget Mr. Berlin. However, Berlin wooed her over the airwaves with his songs, "Remember" and "Always." His biographer, Philip Furia
Philip Furia
Philip George Furia is an American author and English literature professor. His books focus on the lyricists of the Tin Pan Alley era.- Biography :...

, writes that "even before Ellin returned from Europe, newspapers rumored they were engaged, and Broadway shows featured skits of the lovelorn songwriter...." During the week after her return, both she and Berlin were "besieged by reporters, sometimes fifty at a time." Variety reported that her father had vowed their marriage "would only happen 'over my dead body.'" As a result they decided to elope and were married in a simple civil ceremony at the Municipal Building away from media attention.

A front-page story in the New York Times about the wedding stated, "Although Broadway for months had expected the one-time newsboy and Bowery singer of songs to wed the prominent young society girl... the marriage took Clarence H. Mackay, father of the bride, completely by surprise. He was reported to have been stunned when he learned from a third person of the Municipal Building ceremony." However, the bride's mother, who was divorced from Mr. Mackay, was apparently not of the same mind according to the story: "in fact, some quarters pictured her as desirous of seeing her daughter follow the dictates of her own heart. It was reported that the couple motored to the home of Mrs. Blake [her mother], early in the evening and obtained her blessing."

There were also reports that her father disowned his daughter because of the marriage. Berlin then assigned all rights to a number of popular songs, including "Always," a song still played at weddings, thereby guaranteeing her a steady income regardless of what might happen with their marriage. For some years, Mr. Mackay was not on speaking terms with the Berlins; however, during the Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 five years later, Berlin is said to have bailed out his father-in-law when he suffered because of the stock market crash.

Their marriage remained a love affair and they were inseparable until she died in July 1988 at the age of 85. They had four children during their 63 years of marriage: Irving, who died in infancy; Mary Ellin Barrett
Mary Ellin Barrett
Mary Ellin Barrett, oldest daughter of composer Irving Berlin, was born on November 25, 1926. She grew up in New York City, where she attended the Brearley School. She then went to Barnard College, majoring in music. After graduation, she began to work for Time Magazine, where she met her future...

 and Elizabeth Irving Peters of New York, and Linda Louise Emmet, who lived in Paris.

Lifestyle


In 1916, in the earlier phase of Berlin's career, producer and composer George M. Cohan
George M. Cohan
George Michael Cohan , known professionally as George M. Cohan, was a major American entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer, and producer....

, during a toast to the young Berlin at a Friar's Club
New York Friars' Club
The Friars Club is a private club in New York City, founded in 1904 and famous for its risqué celebrity roasts. The club's membership is composed mostly of comedians and other celebrities. It is located at 57 East 55th Street between Park and Madison Avenues in a building it calls the Monastery...

 dinner in his honor, described Berlin:

The thing I like about Irvie is that although he has moved up-town and made lots of money, it hasn't turned his head. He hasn't forgotten his friends, he doesn't wear funny clothes, and you will find his watch and his handkerchief in his pockets, where they belong.


It has been noted by Furia that "throughout his life he had a habit of returning to his old haunts in Union Square
Union Square (New York City)
Union Square is a public square in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York.It is an important and historic intersection, located where Broadway and the former Bowery Road – now Fourth Avenue – came together in the early 19th century; its name celebrates neither the...

, Chinatown
Chinatown, Manhattan
Manhattan's Chinatown , home to one of the highest concentrations of Chinese people in the Western hemisphere, is located in the borough of Manhattan in New York City...

, and the Bowery
Bowery
Bowery may refer to:Streets:* The Bowery, a thoroughfare in Manhattan, New York City* Bowery Street is a street on Coney Island in Brooklyn, N.Y.In popular culture:* Bowery Amphitheatre, a building on the Bowery in New York City...

, a habit easily indulged in a city where no matter how far up—or down—the ladder of success you had climbed, you could reach your antipodes by walking a few blocks." Berlin would always remember his childhood years when he "slept under tenement steps, ate scraps, and wore secondhand clothes," describing those years as hard but good. "Every man should have a Lower East Side in his life," he said. He used to visit The Music Box Theater, which he founded and which still stands at 239 West Forty-Fifth St.

George Frazier of Life magazine found Berlin to be "intensely nervous," with a habit of tapping his listener with his index finger to emphasize a point, and continually pressing his hair down in back and "picking up any stray crumbs left on a table after a meal." While listening, "he leans forward tensely, with his hands clasped below his knees like a prizefighter waiting in his corner for the bell.... For a man who has known so much glory," writes Frazier, "Berlin has somehow managed to retain the enthusiasm of a novice."

Berlin's daughter later wrote in her memoir that "she found her father a loving, if workaholic, family man who was 'basically an upbeat person, with down periods,' until his last decades, when he retreated from public life...." She adds that her parents liked to celebrate every single holiday with their children. "They seemed to understand the importance, particularly in childhood, of the special day, the same every year, the special stories, foods, and decorations and that special sense of well-being that accompanies a holiday." Although he did comment to his daughter about her mother's lavish Christmas spending, "I gave up trying to get your mother to economize. It was easier just to make more money."

Berlin supported the presidential candidacy of General Dwight Eisenhower, and his song "I Like Ike" featured prominently in the Eisenhower campaign. In his later years he also became more conservative in his views on music. According to his daughter, "He was consumed by patriotism." He often said, "I owe all my success to my adopted country" and once rejected his lawyers' advice to invest in tax shelters, insisting, "I want to pay taxes. I love this country."

Berlin was devoted to the Jewish faith and was a staunch advocate of civil rights. Berlin was later honored in 1944 by the National Conference of Christians and Jews for "advancing the aims of the conference to eliminate religious and racial conflict." In 1949, the Young Men's Hebrew Association (YMHA) honored him as one the twelve "most outstanding Americans of Jewish faith." Berlin's Civil Rights Movement support also made him a target of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover
John Edgar Hoover was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972...

, who endlessly investigated him for years.

Death



Berlin died in his sleep on September 22, 1989, in New York City at the age of 101 and was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery
Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx
Woodlawn Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in New York City and is a designated National Historic Landmark.A rural cemetery located in the Bronx, it opened in 1863, in what was then southern Westchester County, in an area that was annexed to New York City in 1874.The cemetery covers more...

 in The Bronx
The Bronx
The Bronx is the northernmost of the five boroughs of New York City. It is also known as Bronx County, the last of the 62 counties of New York State to be incorporated...

, New York. He was survived by three daughters: Mary Ellin Barrett
Mary Ellin Barrett
Mary Ellin Barrett, oldest daughter of composer Irving Berlin, was born on November 25, 1926. She grew up in New York City, where she attended the Brearley School. She then went to Barnard College, majoring in music. After graduation, she began to work for Time Magazine, where she met her future...

 and Elizabeth Irving Peters of New York, and Linda Louise Emmet, who lives in Paris. He is also survived by nine grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

On the evening following the announcement of his death, the marquee lights of Broadway playhouses were dimmed before curtain time in his memory. President George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

 said Mr. Berlin was "a legendary man whose words and music will help define the history of our nation." Just minutes before the President's statement was released, he joined a crowd of thousands to sing Berlin's "God Bless America" at a luncheon in Boston. Former President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

, who costarred in Berlin's 1943 musical This Is the Army, said, "Nancy and I are deeply saddened by the death of a wonderfully talented man whose musical genius delighted and stirred millions and will live on forever."

Morton Gould
Morton Gould
Morton Gould was an American composer, conductor, arranger, and pianist.Born in Richmond Hill, New York, Gould was recognized early as a child prodigy with abilities in improvisation and composition. His first composition was published at age six...

, the composer and conductor who is president of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), of which Mr. Berlin was a founder, said, "What to me is fascinating about this unique genius is that he touched so many people in so many age groups over so many years. He sounded our deepest feelings—happiness, sadness, celebration, loneliness." Ginger Rogers
Ginger Rogers
Ginger Rogers was an American actress, dancer, and singer who appeared in film, and on stage, radio, and television throughout much of the 20th century....

, who danced to Berlin tunes with Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire was an American film and Broadway stage dancer, choreographer, singer and actor. His stage and subsequent film career spanned a total of 76 years, during which he made 31 musical films. He was named the fifth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute...

, told The Associated Press upon hearing of his death that working with Mr. Berlin had been "like heaven."

Legacy and influence


The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

, after his death in 1989, wrote, "Irving Berlin set the tone and the tempo for the tunes America played and sang and danced to for much of the 20th century." An immigrant from Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, his life became the "classic rags-to-riches story that he never forgot could have happened only in America." During his career he wrote an estimated 1,500 songs and was a legend by the time he turned 30. He went on to write the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films, with his songs nominated for Academy Awards
Academy Awards
An Academy Award, also known as an Oscar, is an accolade bestowed by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers...

 on eight occasions. Music historian Susannah McCorkle
Susannah McCorkle
Susannah McCorkle was an American jazz singer much admired for her direct, unadorned singing style and quiet intensity.-Biography:...

 writes that "in scope, quantity, and quality his work was amazing." Others, such as Broadway musician Anne Phillips, says simply that "the man is an American institution."

During his six-decade career, from 1907 to 1966, he produced sheet music, Broadway shows, recordings, and scores played on radio, in films and on television, and his tunes continue to evoke powerful emotions for millions around the world. He wrote songs like "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Cheek to Cheek", "There's No Business Like Show Business", "Blue Skies" and "Puttin' On the Ritz." Some of his songs have become holiday anthems, such as "Easter Parade
Easter Parade (song)
"Easter Parade" is a popular song that was written by Irving Berlin and was published in 1933. The lyrics describe the singer's involvement in an American cultural event called the Easter parade....

", "White Christmas
White Christmas (song)
"White Christmas" is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide.Accounts vary as...

", and "Happy Holiday
Happy Holiday (song)
"Happy Holiday" is a popular song composed by Irving Berlin during 1942.The song was first performed by Bing Crosby for the 1942 film Holiday Inn. While it is often regarded as a Christmas song, in the movie it is performed on New Year's Eve, and expresses a wish for the listener to enjoy "happy...

". "White Christmas" alone sold over 50 million records, the top-selling single of all time, won an ASCAP and an Academy Award, and is one of the most frequently played songs ever written. According to McCorkle, of the top five songwriters in America, only Berlin and Cole Porter
Cole Porter
Cole Albert Porter was an American composer and songwriter. Born to a wealthy family in Indiana, he defied the wishes of his domineering grandfather and took up music as a profession. Classically trained, he was drawn towards musical theatre...

 wrote both their words and music.

In 1938 "God Bless America
God Bless America
"God Bless America" is an American patriotic song written by Irving Berlin in 1918 and revised by him in 1938. The later version has notably been recorded by Kate Smith, becoming her signature song ....

" became the unofficial national anthem of the United States, and on September 11, 2001, members of the House of Representatives stood on the steps of the Capitol and solemnly sang "God Bless America" together. The song returned to #1 shortly after 9/11, when Celine Dion
Celine Dion
Céline Marie Claudette Dion, , , is a Canadian singer. Born to a large family from Charlemagne, Quebec, Dion emerged as a teen star in the French-speaking world after her manager and future husband René Angélil mortgaged his home to finance her first record...

 recorded it as the title track of a 9/11 benefit album. The following year, the Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp of Berlin. By then, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of New York had received more than $10 million in royalties from "God Bless America" as a result of Berlin's donation of royalties. According to music historian Gary Giddins
Gary Giddins
Gary Giddins is an American jazz critic, author, and director, best known for his longtime work with The Village Voice. Born in Brooklyn, and raised on Long Island, Giddins graduated from Grinnell College, Iowa, in 1970...

, "No other songwriter has written as many anthems.... No one else has written as many pop songs, period... [H]is gift for economy, directness, and slang, presents Berlin as an obsessive, often despairing commentator on the passing scene."

In 1934 Life Magazine put him on its cover and inside hailed "this itinerant son of a Russian cantor" as "an American institution." And again in 1943 Life described his songs as follows:

They possess a permanence not generally associated with Tin Pan Alley
Tin Pan Alley
Tin Pan Alley is the name given to the collection of New York City music publishers and songwriters who dominated the popular music of the United States in the late 19th century and early 20th century...

 products and it is more than remotely possible that in days to come Berlin will be looked upon as the Stephen Foster
Stephen Foster
Stephen Collins Foster , known as the "father of American music", was the pre-eminent songwriter in the United States of the 19th century...

 of the 20th century.


At various times his songs were also rallying cries for different causes: He produced musical editorials supporting Al Smith
Al Smith
Alfred Emanuel Smith. , known in private and public life as Al Smith, was an American statesman who was elected the 42nd Governor of New York three times, and was the Democratic U.S. presidential candidate in 1928...

 and Dwight Eisenhower as presidential candidates, he wrote songs opposing Prohibition
Prohibition
Prohibition of alcohol, often referred to simply as prohibition, is the practice of prohibiting the manufacture, transportation, import, export, sale, and consumption of alcohol and alcoholic beverages. The term can also apply to the periods in the histories of the countries during which the...

, defending the gold standard
Gold standard
The gold standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is a fixed mass of gold. There are distinct kinds of gold standard...

, calming the wounds of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, and helping the war against Hitler, and in 1950 he wrote an anthem for the state of Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. Biographer David Leopold adds that "We all know his songs... they are all part of who we are."

At his 100th-birthday celebration in May 1988, violinist Isaac Stern
Isaac Stern
Isaac Stern was a Ukrainian-born violinist. He was renowned for his recordings and for discovering new musical talent.-Biography:Isaac Stern was born into a Jewish family in Kremenets, Ukraine. He was fourteen months old when his family moved to San Francisco...

 said, "The career of Irving Berlin and American music were intertwined forever—American music was born at his piano," while songwriter Sammy Cahn
Sammy Cahn
Sammy Cahn was an American lyricist, songwriter and musician. He is best known for his romantic lyrics to films and Broadway songs, as well as stand-alone songs premiered by recording companies in the Greater Los Angeles Area...

 pointed out: "If a man, in a lifetime of 50 years, can point to six songs that are immediately identifiable, he has achieved something. Irving Berlin can sing 60 that are immediately identifiable... [Y]ou couldn't have a holiday without his permission." Composer Douglas Moore added:

It's a rare gift which sets Irving Berlin apart from all other contemporary songwriters. It is a gift which qualifies him, along with Stephen Foster
Stephen Foster
Stephen Collins Foster , known as the "father of American music", was the pre-eminent songwriter in the United States of the 19th century...

, Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse...

, Vachel Lindsay
Vachel Lindsay
Nicholas Vachel Lindsay was an American poet. He is considered the father of modern singing poetry, as he referred to it, in which verses are meant to be sung or chanted...

 and Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg was an American writer and editor, best known for his poetry. He won three Pulitzer Prizes, two for his poetry and another for a biography of Abraham Lincoln. H. L. Mencken called Carl Sandburg "indubitably an American in every pulse-beat."-Biography:Sandburg was born in Galesburg,...

, as a great American minstrel. He has caught and immortalized in his songs what we say, what we think about, and what we believe.


ASCAP's records show that 25 of Berlin's songs reached the top of the charts and were re-recorded by dozens of famous singers over the years, such as Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

, Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand
Barbra Joan Streisand is an American singer, actress, film producer and director. She has won two Academy Awards, eight Grammy Awards, four Emmy Awards, a Special Tony Award, an American Film Institute award, a Peabody Award, and is one of the few entertainers who have won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy,...

, Linda Ronstadt
Linda Ronstadt
Linda Ronstadt is an American popular music recording artist. She has earned eleven Grammy Awards, two Academy of Country Music awards, an Emmy Award, an ALMA Award, numerous United States and internationally certified gold, platinum and multiplatinum albums, in addition to Tony Award and Golden...

, Rosemary Clooney
Rosemary Clooney
Rosemary Clooney was an American singer and actress. She came to prominence in the early 1950s with the novelty hit "Come On-a My House" written by William Saroyan and his cousin Ross Bagdasarian , which was followed by other pop numbers such as "Botch-a-Me" Rosemary Clooney (May 23, 1928 –...

, Doris Day
Doris Day
Doris Day is an American actress, singer and, since her retirement from show business, an animal rights activist. With an entertainment career that spanned through almost 50 years, Day started her career as a big band singer in 1939, but only began to be noticed after her first hit recording,...

, Diana Ross
Diana Ross
Diana Ernestine Earle Ross is an American singer, record producer, and actress. Ross was lead singer of the Motown group The Supremes during the 1960s. After leaving the group in 1970, Ross began a solo career that included successful ventures into film and Broadway...

, Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby was an American singer and actor. Crosby's trademark bass-baritone voice made him one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century, with over half a billion records in circulation....

, Al Jolson
Al Jolson
Al Jolson was an American singer, comedian and actor. In his heyday, he was dubbed "The World's Greatest Entertainer"....

, Nat King Cole
Nat King Cole
Nathaniel Adams Coles , known professionally as Nat King Cole, was an American musician who first came to prominence as a leading jazz pianist. Although an accomplished pianist, he owes most of his popular musical fame to his soft baritone voice, which he used to perform in big band and jazz genres...

, and Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Jane Fitzgerald , also known as the "First Lady of Song" and "Lady Ella," was an American jazz and song vocalist...

. In 1924, when Berlin was 36, his biography, The Story of Irving Berlin, was being written by Alexander Woollcott
Alexander Woollcott
Alexander Humphreys Woollcott was an American critic and commentator for The New Yorker magazine and a member of the Algonquin Round Table....

. In a letter to Woollcott, Jerome Kern
Jerome Kern
Jerome David Kern was an American composer of musical theatre and popular music. One of the most important American theatre composers of the early 20th century, he wrote more than 700 songs, used in over 100 stage works, including such classics as "Ol' Man River", "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man", "A...

 offered what one writer said "may be the last word" on the significance of Irving Berlin:

Irving Berlin has no place in American music—he is American music. Emotionally, he honestly absorbs the vibrations emanating from the people, manners and life of his time and, in turn, gives these impressions back to the world—simplified, clarified and glorified.


Composer George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

 (1898–1937) also tried to describe the importance of Berlin's compositions:

I want to say at once that I frankly believe that Irving Berlin is the greatest songwriter that has ever lived.... His songs are exquisite cameos of perfection, and each one of them is as beautiful as its neighbor. Irving Berlin remains, I think, America's Schubert. But apart from his genuine talent for song-writing, Irving Berlin has had a greater influence upon American music than any other one man. It was Irving Berlin who was the very first to have created a real, inherent American music.... Irving Berlin was the first to free the American song from the nauseating sentimentality which had previously characterized it, and by introducing and perfecting ragtime he had actually given us the first germ of an American musical idiom; he had sowed the first seeds of an American music.

Awards and celebrations

  • Received the Army's Medal of Merit on Oct. 2, 1945 from General George C. Marshall, at the direction of President Harry S. Truman
    Harry S. Truman
    Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

    , in appreciation for writing the music and lyrics to "This Is the Army."
  • Won a Tony Award in 1951 for Best Score for the musical, Call Me Madam
    Call Me Madam
    Call Me Madam is a musical with a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse and music and lyrics by Irving Berlin.A satire on politics and foreign affairs that spoofs America's penchant for lending billions of dollars to needy countries, it centers on Sally Adams, a well-meaning but ill-informed...

    .
  • Received a special Congressional Gold Medal in 1954 from President Dwight D. Eisenhower
    Dwight D. Eisenhower
    Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

     for contributing the song, "God Bless America." Berlin had also written three songs for his candidacy, including "I Like Ike."
  • Won a Special Tony Award
    Tony Award
    The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre, more commonly known as a Tony Award, recognizes achievement in live Broadway theatre. The awards are presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League at an annual ceremony in New York City. The awards are given for Broadway...

     (New York City) in 1963 for his contributions to the American musical.
  • Awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
    Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
    The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded by the Recording Academy to "performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording."...

     in 1968.
  • Was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame
    Songwriters Hall of Fame
    The Songwriters Hall of Fame is an arm of the National Academy of Popular Music. It was founded in 1969 by songwriter Johnny Mercer and music publishers Abe Olman and Howie Richmond. The goal is to create a museum but as of April, 2008, the means do not yet exist and so instead it is an online...

     in 1970.
  • Was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom
    Presidential Medal of Freedom
    The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is—along with thecomparable Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress—the highest civilian award in the United States...

     in 1977 by President Gerald Ford
    Gerald Ford
    Gerald Rudolph "Jerry" Ford, Jr. was the 38th President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, and the 40th Vice President of the United States serving from 1973 to 1974...

  • Won a Lawrence Langner
    Lawrence Langner
    Lawrence Langner the Great was a playwright, author, and producer.Born near Swansea, South Wales and working most of his life in the United States, he started his career as one of the founders of the Washington Square Players troupe in 1914.In 1919 he founded the Theatre Guild, where he supervised...

     Tony Award
    Tony Award
    The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre, more commonly known as a Tony Award, recognizes achievement in live Broadway theatre. The awards are presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League at an annual ceremony in New York City. The awards are given for Broadway...

     (New York City) in 1978 for his distinguished life in the American theater.
  • Awarded (in absentia,) a Medal of Liberty
    Medal of Liberty
    The Medal of Liberty was awarded in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan to twelve outstanding individuals chosen as representative of the most distinguished naturalized citizens of the United States of America. David L...

     during centennial celebrations for the Statue of Liberty
    Liberty Weekend
    Liberty Weekend was the celebration of the restoration and centenary of the Statue of Liberty in New York City, New York. It began on Thursday, July 3 and ended on Sunday, July 6, 1986.-Opening Ceremonies:...

     in 1986.
  • His 100th-birthday celebration concert for the benefit of Carnegie Hall
    Carnegie Hall
    Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park....

     and ASCAP on May 11, 1988.
  • Awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
    Hollywood Walk of Fame
    The Hollywood Walk of Fame consists of more than 2,400 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along fifteen blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street in Hollywood, California...

    .

Musical scores


The following list includes scores mostly produced by Berlin. Although some of the plays using his songs were later adapted to films, the list will not include the film unless he was the primary composer.

Stage


  • "Watch Your Step
    Watch Your Step
    Watch Your Step was a 1982 album by Ted Hawkins, a collection of previously-recorded songs.-Track listing:All songs were written by Theodore Hawkins, Jr.# Watch Your Step# Bring It Home Daddy# If You Love Me# Don't Lose Your Cool# The Lost Ones...

    " (1914)
  • "Stop! Look! Listen!" (1915)
  • "The Century Girl" (1916)
  • "Yip Yip Yaphank
    Yip Yip Yaphank
    Yip Yip Yaphank is the name of musical revue composed and produced by Irving Berlin in 1918 while he was a recruit during World War I in the United States Army at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York.-From idea to the stage:...

    " (1918)
  • "Ziegfeld Follies
    Ziegfeld Follies
    The Ziegfeld Follies were a series of elaborate theatrical productions on Broadway in New York City from 1907 through 1931. They became a radio program in 1932 and 1936 as The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air....

    " (1919)
  • "Music Box Revue" (1921)
  • "Music Box Revue" (1922)
  • "Music Box Revue" (1923)
  • "Music Box Revue" (1924)

  • "The Cocoanuts" (1925)
  • "Face the Music
    Face the Music (musical)
    Face the Music is a musical, the first collaboration between Moss Hart and Irving Berlin . Face the Music opened on Broadway in 1932, and has had several subsequent regional and New York stagings...

    " (1932)
  • "As Thousands Cheer
    As Thousands Cheer
    As Thousands Cheer is a revue with a book by Moss Hart and music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, first performed in 1933. The revue contained satirical sketches and witty or poignant musical numbers, several of which became standards, including "Heat Wave", "Easter Parade" and "Harlem on my Mind." ...

    " (1933)
  • "Louisiana Purchase
    Louisiana Purchase
    The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition by the United States of America of of France's claim to the territory of Louisiana in 1803. The U.S...

    " (1940)
  • "This Is the Army
    This Is the Army
    This Is the Army is a 1943 American wartime motion picture produced by Hal B. Wallis and Jack L. Warner, and directed by Michael Curtiz, and a wartime musical designed to boost morale in the U.S. during World War II, directed by Sgt. Ezra Stone...

    " (1942)
  • "Annie Get Your Gun
    Annie Get Your Gun (musical)
    Annie Get Your Gun is a musical with lyrics and music written by Irving Berlin and a book by Herbert Fields and his sister Dorothy Fields. The story is a fictionalized version of the life of Annie Oakley , who was a sharpshooter from Ohio, and her husband, Frank Butler.The 1946 Broadway production...

    " (1946)
  • "Miss Liberty
    Miss Liberty
    Miss Liberty is a musical with a book by Robert E. Sherwood and music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. It is based on the sculpting of the Statue of Liberty in 1886...

    " (1949)
  • "Call Me Madam
    Call Me Madam
    Call Me Madam is a musical with a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse and music and lyrics by Irving Berlin.A satire on politics and foreign affairs that spoofs America's penchant for lending billions of dollars to needy countries, it centers on Sally Adams, a well-meaning but ill-informed...

    " (1950)
  • "Mr. President
    Mr. President (musical)
    Mr. President is a musical with a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse and lyrics and music by Irving Berlin.It focuses on U.S. President Stephen Decatur Henderson, who loses his bid for re-election following a disastrous trip to the Soviet Union...

    " (1962)


Film scores


  • The Cocoanuts
    The Cocoanuts
    The Cocoanuts is the first feature-length Marx Brothers film, produced by Paramount Pictures. The musical comedy stars the four Marx Brothers, Oscar Shaw, Mary Eaton, and Margaret Dumont. Produced by Walter Wanger and the first sound movie to credit more than one director , and was adapted to the...

    (1929)
  • Puttin' on the Ritz
    Puttin' on the Ritz (film)
    Puttin' on the Ritz is a musical film, directed by Edward Sloman and starred Harry Richman, Joan Bennett, and James Gleason. The screenplay was written by James Gleason and William K. Wells, based on a story by John W...

    (1930)
  • Top Hat
    Top Hat
    Top Hat is a 1935 screwball comedy musical film in which Fred Astaire plays an American dancer named Jerry Travers, who comes to London to star in a show produced by Horace Hardwick . He meets and attempts to impress Dale Tremont to win her affection...

    (1935)
  • Follow the Fleet
    Follow the Fleet
    Follow the Fleet is a 1936 Hollywood musical comedy film with a nautical theme and stars Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Randolph Scott, Harriet Hilliard, and Astrid Allwyn, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. Lucille Ball and Betty Grable also appear, in small supporting roles...

    (1936)
  • On the Avenue
    On the Avenue
    On the Avenue is a 1937 American musical film directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring Dick Powell, Madeleine Carroll, and Alice Faye. All of the songs in this film were composed by Irving Berlin.-Plot:...

    (1937)
  • Carefree
    Carefree (film)
    Carefree is a 1938 musical film starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. With a plot similar to screwball comedies of the period, Carefree is the shortest of the Astaire-Rogers films, featuring only four musical numbers...

    (1938)
  • Alexander's Ragtime Band
    Alexander's Ragtime Band (film)
    Alexander's Ragtime Band is a film released by Twentieth Century Fox that takes its name from the 1911 Irving Berlin song "Alexander's Ragtime Band" to tell a story of a society boy who scandalizes his family by pursuing a career in Ragtime instead of in "serious" music...

    (1938)
  • Second Fiddle
    Second Fiddle (1939 film)
    Second Fiddle is a 1939 American musical romance film directed by Sidney Lanfield and starring Sonja Henie, Tyrone Power, Rudy Vallee and Lyle Talbot. The score was composed by Irving Berlin. A Hollywood publicity agent falls in love with a new actress he helped to discover. The film parodies the...

    (1939)


  • Holiday Inn
    Holiday Inn (film)
    Holiday Inn is a 1942 American musical film starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, with music by Irving Berlin. The film has twelve songs written expressly for the film, the most notable being "White Christmas"...

    (1942)
  • This Is the Army
    This Is the Army
    This Is the Army is a 1943 American wartime motion picture produced by Hal B. Wallis and Jack L. Warner, and directed by Michael Curtiz, and a wartime musical designed to boost morale in the U.S. during World War II, directed by Sgt. Ezra Stone...

    (1943)
  • Easter Parade (1948)
  • Annie Get Your Gun
    Annie Get Your Gun (film)
    Annie Get Your Gun is a 1950 American musical comedy film loosely based on the life of sharpshooter Annie Oakley. The Metro Goldwyn Mayer release, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and a screenplay by Sidney Sheldon based on the 1946 stage musical of the same name, was directed by George Sidney...

    (1950)
  • Call Me Madam
    Call Me Madam (film)
    Call Me Madam is a 1953 musical film directed by Walter Lang, with songs by Irving Berlin, based on the stage musical of the same name.The film, with a screenplay by Arthur Sheekman, starred Ethel Merman, Donald O'Connor, Vera-Ellen, Billy DeWolfe, George Sanders, and Walter Slezak...

    (1953)
  • There's No Business Like Show Business
    There's No Business Like Show Business (film)
    There's No Business Like Show Business is a 20th Century Fox musical film that was released on December 16, 1954. The title is borrowed from the famous song in the stage musical Annie Get Your Gun....

    (1954)
  • White Christmas
    White Christmas (film)
    White Christmas is a 1954 Technicolor musical film starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye that features the songs of Irving Berlin, including the titular "White Christmas"...

    (1954)


External links




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