Performed by Dick Powell in the film On the Avenue. Later it had four top versions, including by Billie Holiday and Les Brown , who took it to no. The song was written by Berlin twenty years earlier, but he filed it away until when Kate Smith needed a patriotic song to mark the 20th anniversary of Armistice Day , celebrating the end of World War I. Berlin's daughter, Mary Ellin Barrett, states that the song was actually "very personal" for her father, and was intended as an expression of his deep gratitude to the nation for merely "allowing" him, an immigrant raised in poverty, to become a successful songwriter.
Over the decades it has earned millions for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts , to whom Berlin assigned all royalties. Eisenhower for contributing the song. The song was heard after September 11, , as U. It is often played by sports teams such as major league baseball. The Philadelphia Flyers hockey team started playing it before crucial contests. When the U. Olympic hockey team pulled off the "greatest upset in sports history," referred to as the " Miracle on Ice ", the players spontaneously sang it as Americans were overcome by patriotism.
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.
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
The Cocoanuts was a light comedy with a cast featuring, among others, the Marx Brothers. Face the Music was a political satire with a book by Moss Hart , and Louisiana Purchase was a satire of a Southern politician obviously based on the exploits of Huey Long. As Thousands Cheer 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 " sung by Marilyn Miller and Clifton Webb, " Heat Wave " presented as the weather forecast , "Harlem on My Mind", and " Supper Time ", a song about racial violence inspired by a newspaper headline about a lynching, sung by Ethel Waters. She once said about the song, "If one song can tell the whole tragic history of a race, 'Supper Time' was that song.
In singing it I was telling my comfortable, well-fed, well-dressed listeners about my people Berlin loved his country, and wrote many songs reflecting his patriotism. His most notable and valuable contribution to the war effort was a stage show he wrote called " This is the Army ". It was taken to Broadway and then on to Washington, D. Roosevelt attended. It was eventually shown at military bases throughout the world, including London, 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 men. He supervised the production and traveled with it, always singing " Oh! 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 , directed by Michael Curtiz , co-starring Joan Leslie and Ronald Reagan , who was then an army lieutenant. Kate Smith 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. His daughter, Mary Ellin Barrett , who was 15 when she was at the opening-night performance of " This is the Army " 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's at the time, and later declared those years with the show were the "most thrilling time of his life. Loosely based on the life of sharpshooter Annie Oakley , the music and lyrics were written by Berlin, with a book by Herbert Fields and his sister Dorothy Fields , and directed by Joshua Logan. At first Berlin refused to take on the job, claiming that he knew nothing about " hillbilly music", but the show ran for 1, 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. On the origin of another of the play's leading songs, Logan described how he and Hammerstein privately discussed wanting another duet between Annie and Frank.
Berlin overheard their conversation, and although the show was to go into rehearsal within days, he wrote the song "Anything You Can Do" a few hours later. One reviewer commented about the play's score, 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. Apparently the "creative spurt" in which Berlin turned out several songs for the score in a single weekend was an anomaly.
According to his daughter, he usually "sweated blood" to write his songs. Berlin made two attempts to write a musical about his friend, the colorful Addison Mizner , and Addison's con man brother Wilson.
Wise Guy was completed but never produced, although songs have been published and recorded on The Unsung Irving Berlin After a failed attempt at retirement, in , at the age of 74, he returned to Broadway with Mr. Although it ran for eight months, with the premiere attended by President John F. Kennedy , it was not one of his successful plays. Afterwards, Berlin officially announced his retirement and spent his remaining years in New York.
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Though he lived 23 more years, this was one of Berlin's final published compositions. Berlin maintained a low profile through the last decades of his life, almost never appearing in public after the late s, even for events held in his honor. However, he continued to maintain control of his songs through his own music publishing company, which remained in operation for the rest of his life.
Top Hat featured a brand new score, as did several more, including Follow the Fleet , On the Avenue , Carefree , and Second Fiddle Starting with Alexander's Ragtime Band , he often blended new songs with existing ones from his catalog. The film Holiday Inn introduced " White Christmas ", one of the most recorded songs in history. First sung in the film by Bing Crosby along with Marjorie Reynolds , whose voice was dubbed by Martha Mears  , it has sold over 50 million records and stayed no.
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Crosby's version is the best-selling single of all time. Music critic Stephen Holden 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 also notes that the song was even more significant having been released soon after America entered World War II : [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 This feeling is caught in the song of a thousand jukeboxes and tune whistled in streets and homes. When we sing that we don't hate anybody. And there are things we love that we're going to have sometimes if the breaks are not too bad against us.
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Way down under this latest hit of his, Irving Berlin catches us where we love peace. It would also be the last time a Berlin song went to no. Berlin is the only Academy Award presenter and Academy Award winner to open the "envelope" and read his or her own name for "White Christmas". This result was so awkward for Berlin since he had to present the Oscar to himself that the Academy changed the rules of protocol the following year to prevent this situation from arising again.
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 million copies and capture the hearts of the American public at the same time. According to Saul Bornstein a.
Sol Bourne, Saul Bourne , Berlin's publishing company manager, "It was a ritual for Berlin to write a complete song, words and music, every day. He would typically begin writing after dinner and continue until 4 or 5 in the morning. Not always certain about his own writing abilities, he once asked a songwriter friend, Victor Herbert , whether he should study composition.
Herbert told him. In , Berlin joined him as a charter member of the organization that has protected the royalties of composers and writers ever since. In later years, Berlin emphasized his conviction, saying that "it's the lyrics that makes a song a hit, although the tune, of course, is what makes it last.
As a result, Wilder says that many admirers of the music of Jerome Kern , Richard Rodgers and Cole Porter were unlikely to consider Berlin's work in the same category because they forgot or never realized that Berlin wrote many popular tunes, such as "Soft Lights and Sweet Music," "Supper Time," and "Cheek to Cheek.
There is nothing of the hothouse about his work, urban though it may be.
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Composer Jerome Kern 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. Berlin, however, did not follow that method. Instead, says music critic Stephen Holden , Berlin's songs were always simple, "exquisitely crafted street songs whose diction feels so natural that one scarcely notices the craft Among Berlin's contemporaries was Cole Porter, whose music style was often considered more "witty, sophisticated, [and] dirty," according to musicologist Susannah McCorkle.
Of the five top songwriters, only Porter and Berlin wrote both their own words and music. However, she notes that Porter, unlike Berlin, was a Yale -educated and wealthy Midwesterner whose songs were not successful until he was in his thirties.
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