November, 1998 Edition
Music By The Great Irving Berlin

This year marks the 110th anniversary of the birth of one of America's greatest songwriters, Irving Berlin. Born in Russia, (nee Isidore Baline)Berlin moved to New York City with his family in 1893. He published his first work, "Marie of Sunny Italy" in 1907 at age 19 and immediately had his first hit on his hands. In 1911 the publication of "Alexander's Ragtime Band" established his reputation as a songwriter. He formed his own music-publishing business in 1919, and in 1921 he became a partner in the construction of the Music Box Theater in New York, staging his own popular revues at the theater for several years.Berlin wrote about 1500 songs.
Whether for Broadway musicals or films, for humorous songs or romantic ballads, his compositions are celebrated for their appealing melodies and memorable lyrics. Among the numerous musical comedies and revues for which Berlin wrote music and lyrics were Annie Get Your Gun (1946), and Mr. President (1962). His many popular songs include "There's No Business Like Show Business," "God Bless America," and "White Christmas." In 1968 Berlin received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
This month ParlorSongs takes a musical tour of some of this great American composer's music. Many of the songs featured here are some of his lesser known works. In our gallery, we also show a few of the works published by his firm composed by others.

Sheet Music Cover Alexander's Ragtime Band
1911
Music & Lyrics by: Irving Berlin
Cover artist: unknown

Though his first works were hit material, this song was Berlin's first mega-hit and the one that propelled him to the forefront of American composers. This is one of those songs that prooves that a good song is timeless, even when it is reflective of its time. This song, written at the height of the Ragtime craze popularized the musical style of Ragtime that was pioneered by Scott Joplin. Though titled a rag and with some ragtime elements, the song is more a fusion of popular song style of the day and ragtime. The song seems as popular today as it was 87 years ago.

Hear this Berlin classic song.

Sheet Music Cover That Mysterious Rag
1911
Music & Lyrics by: Irving Berlin & Ted Snyder
Cover Artist: unknown

The same year as Alexander's Ragtime band was a hit, That Mysterious Rag faded into the sunset. This song also capitalizes on the Ragtime craze but missed becoming one of Berlin's classic favorites. This song is also a fusion of popular song and ragtime but perhaps with a bit more of the rag influence. The cover is beautiful and I think one of the more striking in the ParlorSongs collection

Listen to this song

Sheet Music Cover I Want To Go Back To Michigan
(Down On The Farm)

1914
Music & Lyrics by: Irving Berlin
Cover artist: John Frew

Another of Berlin's "lost" works is this little item from 1914. The ragtime craze was fading by this time and songs took on a more romantic tone. Many of the songs from this period speak to home, family and sweethearts. Soon, that all would change with the beginning of World War One. This song has a nice tune that I find enjoyable. I am sure it is popular in Michigan but I have to admit, I had never heard it before.

This sheet music is another from the collection shared with me by my friend and co-worker, Don Taddia.

Hear this happy song.

Sheet Music Cover
Tell Me Little Gypsy
1920
Music and Lyrics by: Irving Berlin
Cover artist: "RS" (Starmer)

From about 1907 through the 30's, anyone who was important in the world of popular music was associated one time or another with the great Florenz Ziegfeld. Noted for his extravagant musical follies, he promoted musical attractions at the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 and later managed a number of entertainers, including the comedians Fanny Brice and W. C. Fields, who, under his direction, became stars

With The Follies of 1907, produced in New York City, Ziegfeld introduced the revue to the American musical stage. Famous for their beautiful chorus girls and extravagant, dazzling sets, the highly successful revues became known as The Ziegfeld Follies. This song by Berlin was for the Follies of 1920. The cover is typical of many of the songs I have in the collection for the Follies. Apparently, there was a Ziegfeld style that was carried over to many of the published works from the Follies, no matter who the composer. Yes, the cover is a plain black and white. The song is very different from many of the Berlin tunes we are accustomed to hearing.

Enjoy the music, listen now.

Sheet Music Cover
Don't Wait Too Long
1925
Music & Lyrics by: Irving Berlin
Cover artist: Leff

By 1925 Berlin was hitting his stride and began to write many of the songs that we know today as his classics. Even at that, among the 1500 or more songs he wrote are many more that are virtually forgotten, here is another of those.

The song has that mid twenties happiness that I see in so many songs from the period and is a pleasant tune to listen to. The folks on the cover are "M. De Jari and Harold Yates from the Earl Carrol Vanities", never heard of them either.

Enjoy the music, listen now.


Sheet Music Cover
Always
1925
Music and Lyrics by: Irving Berlin
Cover artist: unknown

Ok, so I have neglected Berlin's most famous works in favor of some of the more obscure, well, here is one of his blockbusters. Surely, everyone born since 1925 has heard "Always" many a time. This is, like Alexander's, one of the timeless classics. The cover is not much to look at and has what appears to be Berlin's autograph in the center.

In this case, there is no flashy cover needed, the music within is arguably one of the greatest songs of all time. So, snuggle up with someone you love and play this wonderful Berlin song.

Enjoy the music, listen now.

Be sure to visit this month's gallery for more of Berlin's songs and some from his publishing house. Please go to the November Gallery for more great music.