10 Aug 2014

Irving Berlin (1888-1989)

From Composer of the Week, 9:05 am on 10 August 2014

As Steve Danby points out, to call Irving Berlin a fast worker would be a bit of an understatement.

Irving Berlin and stars of the movie Alexander's Ragtime Band

Irving Berlin and stars of the movie Alexander's Ragtime Band Photo: Boston Globe, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Russian-born Irving Berlin is the most successful songwriter in pop history. Others have made more money, but Irving wrote more hits over a longer period than anyone else; “White Christmas” remained the number-one selling song for about fifty years.

Irving Berlin was most successful with ‘revue’ shows, where you hired a star and tailored various unconnected numbers items to suit their talents. He’d had bad luck with what they called ‘book’ shows, where you had to advance a plot and build character. So when he got a call from arch-rivals Rodgers and Hammerstein asking him to take over the song-writing from Jerome Kern for a ‘book’ show, he wasn’t sure what to say.

Within a week of looking at the script, he had half a dozen songs written. Then during rehearsals, the director said he needed another song for the second act, maybe a challenge song or a quarrel between the lead characters.

Fifteen minutes later, Berlin was on the phone singing Anything you can do I can do better.

Music Details for Part 1:

BERLIN: Russian Lullaby - Tony Bennett (CBS 460 450)
BERLIN: Sadie Salome Go Home  - Edward M. Favor (Sourced from itunes)
BERLIN: Alexander's Ragtime Band  - Bessie Smith (Pavillion 311002)
BERLIN: When I lost you - The Mills Brothers (Axis 701 595)
BERLIN: Play a simple melody - Bing and Gary Crosby (MCA 430 723)
BERLIN: Oh how I hate to get up in the morning - Irving Berlin, cast of Warner Brothers movie (History CD 203117)
BERLIN: Always - Paul McCartney (Universal 723337)
BERLIN: White Christmas - Bing Crosby (MCA 111620)
BERLIN: Blue Skies - Kiri Te Kanawa (Decca 414 666)
BERLIN: Supper Time - Ethel Waters (Sourced from itunes)
BERLIN: Cheek to Cheek - Fred Astaire (Columbia CD 444233)
BERLIN: God Bless America - Kate Smith (ASV AJA 5 465)
BERLIN: Any Bonds Today - The Andrews Sisters (Sourced from itunes)
BERLIN: Anything you can do - Ethel Merman and Ray Middleton (MCA 110047)
BERLIN: A Couple of Swells - Fred Astaire and Judy Garland (Rhino R2 71960)
BERLIN: You're just in love - Dick Haymes and Ethel Merman (MCA 110051)
BERLIN: After you get what you want you don’t want it - Marilyn Monroe (Charly 332343)

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