Friday, October 30, 2009

Five Astounding Things About Irving Berlin

With There's No Business Like Show Business, God Bless America, Let's Face the Music and Dance (my favorite) and scores of others, Irving Berlin's songs will be with us for a long time.

Five amazing things about him besides his success:
  • His first hit was Alexander's Ragtime Band in 1911. He outlived the copyright for that song.
  • He could only compose in the key of F#, which is mostly the black keys of the piano. He had a mechanism added to his piano to allow him to change keys.
  • He couldn't read or write music. Not so difficult today with guitars and samplers, but his product was primarily written sheet music, not recordings.
  • White Christmas and Easter Parade, two of the most popular Christian holiday songs, were written by Berlin, who was Jewish. (Quick, name three other Easter songs. It's not easy.)
  • He wrote songs for 64 years: from 1907 to 1971.

Sheila Jordan's 1962 version of Let's Face the Music and Dance starts 2:16 into that file. It'll play above or here's a direct link.

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