Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mr. Berlin

 Irving Berlin was born Israel Isidore Beilin, on May 11, 1888, 
in Siberia, one of eight children of 
Moses and Lena Lipkin Beilin. 
They came to America when Irving was 5,
after watching their home burn to the ground 
after an assault by Cossacks. 
Perhaps that was the "inspiration" that brought 
about the creation of America's greatest songwriter of the day.
 (And yes, he joined the fight in the WWI, above, at the age of 30...
where the army knew just what to do with him:
write patriotic songs!)

His father passed away when Irving was 13,
so he took to the streets to help support his family.
He became a newspaper hawker, 
then started singing songs as he sold his papers.
Next stop...plugging songs and writing them,
and dubbed the Yiddishe Yankee Doodle.
From there, he became a Tin Pan Alley songwriter.

"Alexander's Ragtime Band," written in 1911,
became his first big break, and incited a national dance craze.
Above with Irving's second wife,
(his first, Dorothy Goetz, had died just 6 months after their marriage,
of typhoid fever),
Above, Ellin Mackay, an heiress, 
with a father dead-set against the marriage,
and Irving, just back from their honeymoon.
(Well, Irving at least is smiling!)
Ellin and Irving married in 1925 and remained together
until her death in 1988.

Above with Ginger and Fred, and below with 
Judy Garland and Louis B. Mayer,
having created Top Hat, Blue Skies, Holiday Inn,
White Christmas, Easter Parade, and more
for the screen.

His song "God Bless America"
was (according to his daughter)
a personal tribute to a country that allowed him to become
a successful songwriter.
It was written in 1918,
for a revue called "Yip Yip Yaphank!"
and was immortalized when recorded in 1938 by Kate Smith.
Above, he leads a phalanx of seamen in a chorus.

A trio you would NOT want to sit in judgement on your audition!
Rodgers, Berlin, and Hammerstein.

Ethel adored and trusted him.
When Jerome Kern passed away suddenly,
in the midst of writing Annie, Get Your Gun,
Irving came out of retirement to write the score.
It was 1946, he was 58; no time to retire, Irv!

A great shot of Irving, always it seems at the piano,
but backed here by Ginger Rodgers, Rosalind Russell, Dinah Shore,
and Yvette Mimieux.

Irving lived to be 101 years old. 
Son of a cantor,
immigrant resident of Cherry Street,
driven to become the composer/lyricist of 
large parts of the American Songbook.

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