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An American Classic: Irving Berlin

We’ve discussed show-tunes, Broadway, and the Great American Songbook on the blog before, but we have yet to talk about perhaps one of the most influential composers of American standards: Irving Berlin, who happens to celebrate his 129th birthday today. Along with penning a few Broadway scores, including the score for Annie Get Your Gun, he has written numerous songs for Tin Pan Alley, movies (such as the iconic “White Christmas”), and revue shows.

Berlin (born Israel Baline), along with his family, emigrated from imperial Russia to the United States in 1893. The Balines eventually settled on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where many other immigrant families were living at the time. Berlin worked odd jobs around town, and eventually became an itinerant singer around the saloons on the Bowery, making a few cents here and there. Eventually, after singing and playing piano around different restaurants and saloons, he was noticed by the Harry Von Tilzer company, and then later by the Ted Snyder Company – two large music publishers of Tin Pan Alley and Vaudeville tunes.

A Photograph of Irving Berlin from 1941. Public Domain.

A Photograph of Irving Berlin from 1941. Public Domain.

When he was only 23 years old, Berlin had delivered his first big hit song “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” It was a hit song for Berlin, and soon Irving Berlin became a well-known name on Vaudeville circuits. His career is well-known from that point, with many of his songs being used in revue and Vaudeville shows. During that time he penned such songs as “Watch Your Step,” “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody,” and “When I Lost You.” He also wrote patriotic songs to inspire the troops and bolster the support of the home front during World War I. Perhaps his most famous tune from this time is “Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” – later featured in the movie “This is the Army” with Berlin himself singing it!

Mr. Berlin continued to write songs including his most well-known, “God Bless America.” Here are just a few of the songs we have by him in the NLS music collection:

Audio – Appreciation

The Bard of Tin Pan Alley (DBM00945)
They Don’t Write ‘Em Like That Anymore (DBM00342)
Tribute to Mr. America (DBM01011)
Memory Bank (DBM01076)
Sing Me some Simple Songs (DBM00617)
Great American Music: Broadway Musicals (DBM02875)

 

Audio – Instructional

White Christmas – Alto Sax (DBM02795)
White Christmas – Guitar (DBM02240)
White Christmas – Flute (DBM03265)
White Christmas – Piano (DBM03753)
God Bless America – Piano (DBM03723)

Braille

God Bless America [piano/vocal] (BRM24011)
White Christmas [piano/vocal] (BRM24890)
God Bless America [piano/vocal] (BRM28365)
Marie [piano/vocal] (BRM21780)
Always [piano/vocal] (BRM33681)
Irving Berlin Anthology [voice/melody/chords], vol. 1, vol. 2., vol. 3 (BRM36211)

We also have selected titles by Irving Berlin in Large Print. Please contact the music section for more information.

What A Great Service!

I heard these words a lot this past weekend. That’s because the NLS Music Section made its way to the NAfME (National Association for Music Education) conference in Grapevine, TX. While there, I was able to promote our service to music teachers from all over the country—and some future music teachers too! The refrain I kept […]

NLS Music Section at the 2016 Library of Congress National Book Festival

NLS music section was at the 16th Library of Congress National Book Festival at the Washington Convention Center on Saturday, September 24, 2016, to greet visitors and explain about our services. This event provided a wonderful opportunity for outreach, and we were able to talk to a wide variety of people who were not aware […]

Music Catalogs for 2016: New and Improved!

As we are exiting the period that can still be referred to as “the new year” and are approaching the season of renewal known as spring, we’d like to highlight some of our recent publications, namely our new catalogs. Although we’ve had blog posts about magazines produced by the Music Section (Musical Mainstream and Contemporary […]

Beethoven, Brahms, and Schumann — New Music Titles

Over the past month, the Music Section has added more than 45 new braille, audio, and large-print music titles by roughly twenty-five different composers to its collection. Together, just three composers, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, and Robert Schumann, wrote compositions that comprise nearly a quarter of the total amount of those additions. I thought it a good […]

George M!

“Over there! Over there!” “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy…” “You’re a grand old flag, you’re a high flying flag!” Do these songs seem familiar to you? Did you know that they were all written by the same composer, George M. Cohan? George M. Cohan (he’s usually referred to by his full name, middle initial and […]

Back to School

September signifies many things to us–cooler temperatures, leaves starting to turn, and…back to school! I would like to showcase some of the items requested with increasing frequency as the semester begins. We have some new titles and some that would be helpful if you’re looking for a guide. Most of these are intended for college […]

Remembering the Ladies!

Abigail Adams, in a letter dated March 31st, 1776 to her husband John Adams, advised him to “remember the ladies” in the creation of the new government, independent from Great Britain. This post will be published after March 31st and while Women’s History Month is past, I beg your patience as I also ask you […]

From Beginners to Virtuosi: Violin Music in the NLS Collection

Since Arcangelo Corelli’s 362nd birthday was just celebrated two days ago, I thought it a perfect time to talk about some of our violin music. Here at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) Music Section, many of our patrons are pianists and vocalists, but many also play other instruments, including […]