Irving Berlin

~ Person


Co-founded ASCAP.

Annotation last modified on 2010-02-27 12:49 UTC.


Irving Berlin (born Israel Isidore Baline; 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.

"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 "a legend" before he turned thirty. During his 60-year career he wrote an estimated 1,500 songs, including the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films, with his songs nominated eight times for Academy Awards. Many songs became popular themes and anthems, including "Easter Parade", "White Christmas", "Happy Holiday", "This Is the Army, Mr. Jones", and "There's No Business Like Show Business". His Broadway musical and 1942 film, This is the Army, with Ronald Reagan, had Kate Smith singing Berlin's "God Bless America" which was first performed in 1938. Celine Dion recorded it as a tribute, making it no. 1 on the charts after the September 11 attacks in 2001. And in 2015, pianist and composer Hershey Felder began touring nationwide as a one-man show, portraying Berlin and performing his songs.

Berlin's songs have reached the top of the charts 25 times and have been extensively re-recorded by numerous singers including Eddie Fisher, Al Jolson, Fred Astaire, Ethel Merman, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Deana Martin, Ethel Waters, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt, Rosemary Clooney, Cher, Diana Ross, Bing Crosby, Rita Reys, Frankie Laine, Johnnie Ray, Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Doris Day, Jerry Garcia, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and Ella Fitzgerald. 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.".

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Year Title Artist RatingReleases
Berling for Brass (The Chessnut Brass Company) Irving Berlin 1

Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1988 Irving Berlin: A Hundred Years Irving Berlin 1
1988 The Decca Masters, Volume 2 Gershwin, Foster, Weill, Berlin; Jascha Heifetz 1
1988 The Irving Berlin 100th Anniversary Collection Irving Berlin 1
1989 The Song is ... Irving Berlin Irving Berlin 1
1990 The Irving Berlin Songbook: A Centennial Celebration Irving Berlin 1
1990 The Great Stars Salute Irving Berlin Irving Berlin 1
1992 American Songbook Series: Irving Berlin Irving Berlin 1
1993 Always: The Great Songs of Irving Berlin Irving Berlin 1
1996 Top Hat White Tie & Tails: The Irving Berlin Songbook Irving Berlin 1
2005 The Film Musicals Collection: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, 1954 film cast / Kiss Me, Kate, 1953 film cast / Calamity Jane, 1953 original film cast / Oklahoma! 1947 original London cast / Show Boat, 1951 film cast / Annie Get Your Gun, 1950 film cast) Gene de Paul / Cole Porter / Sammy Fain / Rodgers & Hammerstein / Jerome Kern / Irving Berlin 1
2005 Irving Berlin in Hollywood Irving Berlin 1
2005 Blue Skies: Irving Berlin Songbook Irving Berlin 1
Always: The Best of Irving Berlin Irving Berlin 1
George Gershwin Irving Berlin 1

Album + Compilation + Soundtrack

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1973 Show Boat / Annie Get Your Gun Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II / Irving Berlin 1

Album + Soundtrack

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1946 Annie Get Your Gun (1946 original Broadway cast) Irving Berlin 4
1948 Easter Parade (1948 film cast) Irving Berlin 3
1950 Call Me Madam (1950 Decca studio cast) Irving Berlin 2
1966 Annie Get Your Gun (1966 Lincoln Center cast) Irving Berlin 3
1986 Annie Get Your Gun (1986 London revival cast) Irving Berlin 2
1989 Singin' in the Rain / Easter Parade (1952/1948 film casts) Nacio Herb Brown / Irving Berlin 3
1991 Annie Get Your Gun (1991 studio recording) Irving Berlin 1
1992 Mr. President (1962 original Broadway cast) Irving Berlin 2
1993 Annie Get Your Gun (1957 television cast) Irving Berlin 1
1995 Annie Get Your Gun (1947 original London cast) Irving Berlin 1
1995 Call Me Madam (1995 New York cast) Irving Berlin 1
1997 Annie Get Your Gun (1963 Berlin cast) Irving Berlin 1
1998 There's No Business Like Show Business Irving Berlin 2
1999 Annie Get Your Gun (1999 Broadway revival cast) Irving Berlin 1
2000 Top Hat (1935 film cast) / Blue Skies (1946 film cast) Irving Berlin 1
2002 Alexander's Ragtime Band Irving Berlin & Alfred Newman 1
2006 Irving Berlin's White Christmas The Musical Irving Berlin 1
2008 Annie Get Your Gun (1963 studio cast) Irving Berlin 1
2008 Holiday Inn Irving Berlin 1
Louisiana Purchase (1996 Original New York Cast) Irving Berlin 1
Watch Your Step (2001 off-Broadway cast) Irving Berlin 1


Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1917 For Your Country and My Country Irving Berlin; George Gershwin, Rudolph O. Erlebach 1

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