HAPPY BIRTHDAY IRVING BERLIN
By Doc Lawrence
During the hallowed baseball ceremony, the seventh-inning stretch, fans at parks all over America serenade our country with “God Bless America,” preceding baseball’s anthem, “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” The former, now almost on par with The National Anthem, was penned by the incomparable Irving Berlin and today is his birthday.
We should revisit the lives of our great artists on occasions like today. Ameica’s music continues to be a mighty force in the world of popular culture and few have contributed anything approaching the works, (should I say standards?) composed by Berlin.
With a catalogue that boasted over 1000 songs, Irving Berlin epitomized Jerome Kern's famous maxim that "Irving Berlin has no place in American music -- he is American music." When his father died, Berlin, just turned 13, became a singing waiter in a New York City Chinatown Café and soon had his first major international hit — "Alexander's Ragtime Band."
Over the next five decades, Irving Berlin produced an outpouring of ballads, dance numbers, novelty tunes and love songs that defined American popular song for much of the 20th century. A sampling of just some of the Irving Berlin standards includes "How Deep Is The Ocean," "Blue Skies," "White Christmas," "Always," "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better," "There's No Business Like Show Business," "Cheek To Cheek," "Puttin' On The Ritz," "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody," "Heat Wave," "Oh! How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning," "Easter Parade" and "Let's Face The Music And Dance." In a class by itself is his paean to his beloved country, "God Bless America."
He was equally at home writing for Broadway and Hollywood. He wrote seventeen complete scores for Broadway musicals and revues, and contributed material to six more. Among the shows featuring all-Berlin scores were THE COCOANUTS, AS THOUSANDS CHEER, LOUISIANA PURCHASE, THIS IS THE ARMY, MISS LIBERTY, MR. PRESIDENT, CALL ME MADAM and the phenomenally successful ANNIE GET YOUR GUN. Recent musicals culled from his screen work include IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS (Broadway, across the USA, Canada and Great Britain), and TOP HAT, currently in its 2nd year in London's West End and winner of the 2013 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
Among the Hollywood movie musical classics with scores by Irving Berlin are TOP HAT, FOLLOW THE FLEET, ON THE AVENUE, ALEXANDER'S RAGTIME BAND, HOLIDAY INN, BLUE SKIES, EASTER PARADE, WHITE CHRISTMAS and THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS. His songs have provided memorable moments in dozens of other films, from THE JAZZ SINGER (1927) to blockbusters like HOME ALONE (1991) and TITANIC (1997). Among his many awards were a special Tony Award (1963) and the Academy Award for Best Song of the Year for "White Christmas" in 1942.
On September 22, 1989, at the age of 101, Irving Berlin died in his sleep in his town house in New York City.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Berlin. God indeed blessed America when you set foot on the shore in New York City.
Hope you make plans to see “The Great Gatsby” Enjoy this story, a prelude to the highly recommended movie: