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Irving Berlin

Irving Berlin (born Israel Beilin; Yiddish: ישראל ביילין‎; May 11, 1888 – September 22, 1989) was an American composer and lyricist, widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history. His music forms a great 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 had his first major international hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band" in 1911. He also was an owner of the Music Box Theatre on Broadway. It is commonly believed that Berlin could not read sheet music, and was such a limited piano player that he could only play in the key of F-sharp using his custom piano equipped with a transposing lever.

"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" which was 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, Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, 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, Jerry Garcia, 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", and composer Jerome Kern concluded that "Irving Berlin has no place in American music—he is American music."

Birth and Death Data: Born May 11th, 1888 (Tyumen;Talačyn), Died New York City

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1909 - 1953

Roles Represented in DAHR: composer, lyricist, songwriter, vocalist

Recordings (Results 1-25 of 1466 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 composer, lyricist  
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 composer, lyricist  
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 composer, lyricist  
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 lyricist, composer  
Victor B-10386 10-in. 5/26/1911 When I'm alone, I'm lonesome American Quartet Male vocal quartet, with orchestra lyricist, composer  
Victor B-10625 10-in. 6/28/1911 When you're in town Henry Burr ; Elise Stevenson Female-male vocal duet, with orchestra lyricist, composer  
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 lyricist, composer  
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  
(Results 1-25 of 1466 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Berlin, Irving," accessed October 29, 2020, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/101971.

Berlin, Irving. (2020). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved October 29, 2020, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/101971.

"Berlin, Irving." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2020. Web. 29 October 2020.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/101971

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