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Irving Berlin Biography

Irving Berlin Tickets

Irving Berlin In-depth Biography

The most commercially successful of all American songwriters during the first half of the twentieth century, Irving Berlin} was neither American-born nor able to read or write music. Berlin} could play only the black keys of the piano, using a special lever to transpose out of F sharp and having an assistant transcribe the music. Born Israel Baline} in Russia to a cantor and his wife, the child never received any real musical education; when the family came to the United States, his father abandoned music. Israel} sang for pennies on the street and eventually got a job as a singing waiter, attracting attention with his risqué parodies of popular songs. His first published effort, "Marie From Sunny Italy,"} was a 1907 collaboration with the café's pianist; it was on this song's title page that he first used the name Irving Berlin}. In 1908 came "Dorando,"} the first of some 1,500 songs for which Berlin} would write both the words and music. His early songs were very much period pieces, ethnic and novelty} songs, and the key to Berlin}'s success would be his ability to adapt to whatever style was popular at the time. His career ended only when he was unable to come to terms with rock & roll}. Berlin}'s first major hit was "Alexander's Ragtime Band"} in 1911. Soon, he was contributing to Broadway revues. Berlin} was instrumental in establishing ASCAP, the composers' society, in 1914, and in 1919, he formed his own music publishing firm. In the 1920s, Berlin} wrote such tremendously popular songs as "All by Myself,"} "Always,"} and "What'll I Do?"} Hollywood beckoned as soon as talkies developed; Berlin}'s "Blue Skies"} was incorporated into The Jazz Singer}. Most notable among Berlin}'s film efforts was his work for Fred Astaire} and Ginger Rogers} vehicles, starting with Top Hat}. During World War II, his wistful "White Christmas"} became a top seller, and Berlin}'s career peaked in 1945 with the musical Annie Get Your Gun}, which spawned "There's No Business Like Show Business."} After the 1950 Broadway hit Call Me Madam}, Berlin}'s career went into a slow decline and he essentially withdrew after the failure of his 1962 show Mr. President}. Nevertheless, he could look back with satisfaction on a career that included the best-selling single in American history ("White Christmas"}), the theme of the entertainment industry ("There's No Business Like Show Business"}), and the "shadow" national anthem ("God Bless America"}). ~ James Reel, All Music Guide

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