Reply
Honored Contributor
Posts: 15,328
Registered: ‎11-08-2014

Irving Berlin-- "America's Greatest Songwriter"

[ Edited ]

Yup, no less a figure than George Gershwin said this about Irving Berlin.  The prolific composer and lyricist died on September 22, 1989.

 

Composer of "Alexander's Ragtime Band",  "What'll I Do",   "Always",  "White Christmas",  'Puttin' On the Ritz,"  "Harlem On My Mind",  "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" and scads and scads of other familiar standards.

 

He was born in Russia, the son of a cantor.  The pogroms were still going full force there, so the family emigrated to New York City, where Berlin grew up poor and obscure.

 

He loved America passionately, and showed it in his arguably favorite compostion, "God Bless America".   Here he is, older, famous, celebrated, singing his own song on the Ed Sullivan Show in the Sixties.  The bespectacled, possibly frail songwriting genius with his soft voice warbling his own song does something to me!  The presence of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts is explained by the fact that he donated all royalties from the song to those groups.  What an American patriot!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZNwMJPexHk

 

 

Respected Contributor
Posts: 4,833
Registered: ‎03-09-2010

Re: Irving Berlin-- "America's Greatest Songwriter"

I could never disagree with anyone who says Berlin was America's Greatest Songwriter.  But I do think that George M. Cohan runs him a very close second, and certainly wrote songs that helped to get our country through a World War.  Many of his songs are among my favorites.  And he had the ability to entertain as well.

Honored Contributor
Posts: 9,746
Registered: ‎03-09-2010

Re: Irving Berlin-- "America's Greatest Songwriter"

Amazing songwriter!

 

Thanks for the video link...I would have thought it corny back in 1968 when I was a young teen but seeing it today brings a tear to my eyes!

Respected Contributor
Posts: 3,248
Registered: ‎01-02-2015

Re: Irving Berlin-- "America's Greatest Songwriter"

Let's add Cole Porter in that mix ....

Honored Contributor
Posts: 15,328
Registered: ‎11-08-2014

Re: Irving Berlin-- "America's Greatest Songwriter"

Yes indeed, I like the additions you posters have made to the Tin Pan Alley canon!

 

I am in awe of several of them, hard to settle on one, BUT my personal favorite might be the songwriting team of Rodgers and Hart.  Lorenz Hart was Richard Rodgers' first partner, before he teamed with Oscar Hammerstein.  There was such a poetry and sophistication to their songs.  My fave?

 

"My Funny Valentine"  (Sweet comic valentine, you make me SMILE with my heart.)

 

Love the line from that that goes--  "Your looks are laughable/ Unphotographable/But you're my FAVE-orite work of art".     

 

Clever, clever and soulful.

 

But I love Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, and Rodgers and Hammerstein's teaming too.

 

Such musical riches we have!

Respected Contributor
Posts: 2,910
Registered: ‎05-08-2017

Re: Irving Berlin-- "America's Greatest Songwriter"

I will agree some of these songwriters are wonderful, but they probably speak more to an older audience.

 

The songwriters who resonate with me are people like Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Carol King, and Ray Charles. 

I'm keeping it at Americans only since that was the thread subject, but going abroad, Lennon and McCartney take first place for me.

 

 

Honored Contributor
Posts: 15,792
Registered: ‎06-17-2015

Re: Irving Berlin-- "America's Greatest Songwriter"


@Oznell wrote:

Yup, no less a figure than George Gershwin said this about Irving Berlin.  The prolific composer and lyricist died on September 22, 1989.

 

Composer of "Alexander's Ragtime Band",  "What'll I Do",   "Always",  "White Christmas",  'Puttin' On the Ritz,"  "Harlem On My Mind",  "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" and scads and scads of other familiar standards.

 

He was born in Russia, the son of a cantor.  The pogroms were still going full force there, so the family emigrated to New York City, where Berlin grew up poor and obscure.

 

He loved America passionately, and showed it in his arguably favorite compostion, "God Bless America".   Here he is, older, famous, celebrated, singing his own song on the Ed Sullivan Show in the Sixties.  The bespectacled, possibly frail songwriting genius with his soft voice warbling his own song does something to me!  The presence of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts is explained by the fact that he donated all royalties from the song to those groups.  What an American patriot!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZNwMJPexHk

 

 


@Oznell  Thank you!  Some songs are timeless and classic. 

 

We may not be old enough to know them but certainly old enough to enjoy.

 

"White Christmas" is an example of timeless. 

""But tell me where do the children play"-Cat Stevens
Honored Contributor
Posts: 15,328
Registered: ‎11-08-2014

Re: Irving Berlin-- "America's Greatest Songwriter"

Yes, "timeless" is the word, Cakers.  Like great books, art, films--  the art from every era can speak to us with the eternal truths about love, heartbreak, ambition, disappointment, loneliness, jubilance.    Human nature doesn't change, really.

 

I do have a personal preference for the art production as well as the pop culture of eras earlier than my own, and that includes the truly astonishing musical output of Tin Pan Alley...

 

 

 

 

Valued Contributor
Posts: 651
Registered: ‎03-10-2010

Re: Irving Berlin-- "America's Greatest Songwriter"

Thanks for the link Oznell. It was a heartwarming rendition to see him sing with the Boy and Girl Scouts.

 

Irving Berlin said, "To me, 'God Bless America' was not just a song but an expression of my feeling toward the country to which I owe what I have and what I am."

 

I've enjoyed it when The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has sung "Battle Hymn of the Republic" at inaugurations - another inspiring patriotic song.

 

I love patriotic songs!

Honored Contributor
Posts: 8,924
Registered: ‎03-10-2010

Re: Irving Berlin-- "America's Greatest Songwriter"


@cimeranrose wrote:

Thanks for the link Oznell. It was a heartwarming rendition to see him sing with the Boy and Girl Scouts.

 

Irving Berlin said, "To me, 'God Bless America' was not just a song but an expression of my feeling toward the country to which I owe what I have and what I am."

 

I've enjoyed it when The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has sung "Battle Hymn of the Republic" at inaugurations - another inspiring patriotic song.

 

I love patriotic songs!


Most people are familiar with the refrain of "God Bless America", but the rarely heard verse to this song is wonderful too, and as current today as when it was written. If you can find the Kate Smith version, take a listen!