Irving Berlin (born Israel Beilin; Yiddish: ישראל ביילין; May 11, 1888 – September 22, 1989) was an American composer and lyricist. His music forms a large part of the Great American Songbook.
Born in Imperial Russia, Berlin arrived in the United States at the age of five. He published his first song, "Marie from Sunny Italy", in 1907, receiving 33 cents for the publishing rights, and became known for international hits, such as 1911's "Alexander's Ragtime Band". He also was an owner of the Music Box Theatre on Broadway. For much of his career, Berlin could not read sheet music, and was such a limited piano player that he could only play in the key of F-sharp; he used his custom piano equipped with a transposing lever when he needed to play in keys other than F-sharp.
"Alexander's Ragtime Band" sparked an international dance craze in places as far away as Berlin's native Russia, 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 stated aim being to "reach the heart of the average American," whom he saw as the "real soul of the country". In doing so, said Walter Cronkite, at Berlin's 100th birthday tribute, he "helped write the story of this country, capturing the best of who we are and the dreams that shape our lives".
He wrote hundreds of songs, many becoming major hits, which made him famous before he turned thirty. During his 60-year career he wrote an estimated 1,500 songs, including the scores for 20 original Broadway shows and 15 original Hollywood films, with his songs nominated eight times for Academy Awards. Many songs became popular themes and anthems, including "Alexander's Ragtime Band", "Easter Parade", "Puttin' on the Ritz", "Cheek to Cheek", "White Christmas", "Happy Holiday", "Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)", and "There's No Business Like Show Business". His Broadway musical and 1943 film This Is the Army, with Ronald Reagan, had Kate Smith singing Berlin's "God Bless America", first performed in 1938.
Berlin's songs have reached the top of the charts 25 times and have been extensively re-recorded by numerous singers, including The Andrews Sisters, Perry Como, Eddie Fisher, Al Jolson, Fred Astaire, Ethel Merman, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, Tiny Tim, Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt, Rosemary Clooney, Cher, Diana Ross, Bing Crosby, Sarah Vaughan, Ruth Etting, Fanny Brice, Marilyn Miller, Rudy Vallée, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Doris Day, Harry Nilsson, Jerry Garcia, Taco, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Buble, Lady Gaga, and Christina Aguilera.
Berlin died in 1989 at the age of 101. Composer Douglas Moore sets Berlin apart from all other contemporary songwriters, and includes him instead with Stephen Foster, Walt Whitman, and Carl Sandburg, 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 called him "the greatest songwriter that has ever lived",: 117 and composer Jerome Kern concluded that "Irving Berlin has no place in American music—he is American music."
Birth and Death Data: Born May 11, 1888 (Tyumen), Died September 22, 1989 (New York City)
Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1909 - 1953
Roles Represented in DAHR: composer, lyricist, songwriter, vocalist
= Recordings are available for online listening.
= Recordings were issued from this master. No recordings issued from other masters.
Recordings (Results 1-25 of 1605 records)
|Company||Matrix No.||Size||First Recording Date||Title||Primary Performer||Description||Role||Audio|
|Victor||B-8025||10-in.||6/5/1909||Wild cherries||Maude Raymond||Female vocal solo, with orchestra||lyricist|
|Victor||B-8115||10-in.||7/16/1909||My wife's gone to the country||Collins and Harlan||Male vocal duet, with orchestra||lyricist|
|Victor||B-8625||10-in.||2/12/1910||That mesmerizing Mendelssohn tune||Collins and Harlan||Male vocal duet, with orchestra||lyricist, composer|
|Victor||B-8697||10-in.||3/11/1910||Stop that rag||American Quartet||Male vocal quartet||lyricist|
|Victor||B-8769||10-in.||3/30/1910||Alexander and his clarinet||Collins and Harlan||Male vocal duet, with orchestra||lyricist|
|Victor||B-8901||10-in.||4/29/1910||Grizzly bear||Maude Raymond||Female vocal solo||lyricist|
|Victor||B-8912||10-in.||5/4/1910||Call me up some rainy afternoon||American Quartet ; Ada Jones||Female vocal solo and male vocal quartet, with orchestra||lyricist, composer|
|Victor||B-9034||10-in.||5/31/1910||That beautiful rag||Arthur Collins||Male vocal solo, with orchestra||lyricist|
|Victor||B-9035||10-in.||5/31/1910||Dear Mayme, I love you||Byron G. Harlan||Male vocal solo, with orchestra||lyricist|
|Victor||B-9326||10-in.||7/27/1910||Wild cherries rag||Ed Morton||Male vocal solo, with orchestra||lyricist|
|Victor||B-9339||10-in.||7/29/1910||Sweet Italian love||Byron G. Harlan||Male vocal solo, with orchestra||lyricist|
|Victor||B-9382||10-in.||8/29/1910||Sweet Italian love||Billy Murray||Male vocal solo, with orchestra||lyricist|
|Victor||B-9386||10-in.||8/29/1910||Is there anything else I can do for you?||Ada Jones||Female vocal solo, with orchestra||lyricist|
|Victor||B-9445||10-in.||9/13/1910||Kiss me||Elida Morris||Female vocal solo, with orchestra||lyricist|
|Victor||B-9446||10-in.||9/13/1910||Stop, stop, stop||Elida Morris||Female vocal solo, with orchestra||lyricist, composer|
|Victor||B-9600||10-in.||11/3/1910||Grizzly bear||American Quartet ; Billy Murray||Male vocal solo and male vocal quartet, with orchestra||lyricist|
|Victor||B-9602||10-in.||11/3/1910||Dreams, just dreams||Reinald Werrenrath||Male vocal solo, with orchestra||lyricist|
|Victor||B-10025||10-in.||3/3/1911||The piano man||Billy Murray||Male vocal solo, with piano||lyricist|
|Victor||B-10214||10-in.||4/20/1911||The piano man||Gene Greene||Male vocal solo, with orchestra||lyricist|
|Victor||B-10374||10-in.||5/23/1911||Alexander's ragtime band||Collins and Harlan||Male vocal duet, with orchestra||composer, lyricist|
|Victor||B-10386||10-in.||5/26/1911||When I'm alone, I'm lonesome||American Quartet||Male vocal quartet, with orchestra||composer, lyricist|
|Victor||B-10625||10-in.||6/28/1911||When you're in town||Henry Burr ; Elise Stevenson||Female-male vocal duet, with orchestra||composer, lyricist|
|Victor||B-10630||10-in.||6/29/1911||Run home and tell your mother||American Quartet ; Helen Clark||Male vocal quartet and female vocal solo, with orchestra||composer, lyricist|
|Victor||B-10801||10-in.||7/17/1911||Woodman, woodman, spare that tree||Bob Roberts||Male vocal solo, with orchestra||lyricist|
|Victor||B-10946||10-in.||9/11/1911||When I'm alone, I'm lonesome||"That Girl" Quartet||Female vocal quartet||lyricist, composer|
Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Berlin, Irving," accessed September 26, 2023, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/101971.
Berlin, Irving. (2023). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved September 26, 2023, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/101971.
"Berlin, Irving." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2023. Web. 26 September 2023.
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