Irving Berlin (born Israel Beilin, May 11, 1888 September 22, 1989) is, without a doubt, the father of modern American music, and one of the most prolific composers of the early and mid twentieth century. His music has become an integral part of American musical culture. It is almost impossible for anyone alive to have not heard a song he wrote. His songs include "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Puttin' on the Ritz,"note "White Christmas", and "God Bless America."
List of film/theatre scores
- Puttin' on the Ritz (1930)
- Top Hat (1935)
- Follow the Fleet (1936)
- Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938)
- Carefree (1938)
- Holiday Inn (1942)
- Easter Parade (1948)
- Annie Get Your Gun (theatre: 1946; film: 1950)
- White Christmas (1954)
This composer is an example of the following tropes:
- An Immigrant's Tale: He was born in Russia and came to the U.S. as a child.
- Blue is Calm: "Blue Skies" extols blue skies and bluebirds indicators of inner peace and that things are looking up.
- Christmas Songs: One of the most famous examples. "White Christmas", with a not-often-heard first verse.
- Disowned Adaptation: Was alleged to have loathed Elvis Presley's version of "White Christmas" and even supposedly even tried to get radio stations to boycott it, but later research shows no evidence of this happening at the time. The one source for the story was an acquaintance of Berlin's interviewed several decades after the fact.
- Dreaming of a White Christmas: Trope Namer.
- Never Learned to Read: Not only could he not read or write music, he could only play in one key! Specifically, F sharp, so he could mostly stay in the black keys. He had a special piano built with what was essentially a giant lever-operated capo if ever he needed to transpose something. He got around his musical illiteracy by using a "musical secretary" to transcribe his songs. He once asked his songwriting friend Victor Herbert whether he should study composition, to which Herbert replied that it "might help you a little, but it could cramp your style".
- Protest Song:
- "I'll See You In C-U-B-A" about Prohibition.
- "Stay Down Here Where You Belong" from 1914 was a general protest against war but was pretty obviously inspired by the outbreak of World War I in Europe. It became an Old Shame for him after the US entered the war and he became known for patriotic songs.To please their kings they've all gone out to war,And not a one of them knows what he's fighting for.
- Qurac: "Araby", one of his early hits, and also an example of "Arabian Nights" Days, which gave him his surname (due to a typo on the sheet music, "Baline" came out as "Berlin".
- The Roaring '20s: Wrote songs which appeared in revues during this period, though he continued to work and remained plenty popular throughout The Great Depression all the way up to The '40s and The '50s.