BY BILLY SUTER
A NEW website has been created to honour seminal musician Irving Berlin in celebration of his 130th birthday year, it has been announced by Berlin’s family, in conjunction with his publishers Concord Music (North America) and Universal Music Publishing Group (rest of World).
The site has been created to pay tribute to Berlin’s life and legendary works, and marks the first time a dedicated digital resource has existed online for the man epitomised by Jerome Kern’s famous maxim: “Irving Berlin has no place in American music – he is American music”.
The website’s features include a commissioned detailed history of Berlin’s life, including his great romance and 62-year marriage to Ellin Mackay – the billionaire’s daughter who defied her father to marry Berlin and who went on to become an impressive novelist.
The site also covers Berlin’s glittering career writing popular music, and numerous Broadway and Hollywood scores; and his groundbreaking, all-soldier cast production This Is The Army, that helped raise both money and morale during World War II.
Behind the Songs is a section exploring the stories behind some of Berlin’s best-loved tracks – among them Alexander’s Ragtime Band and White Christmas – and features exclusive excerpts from The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin (edited by Robert Kimball and Linda Emmet, one of Berlin’s daughters.)
Another bonus on the site is a collection of fascinating photographs spanning Berlin’s life – from pictures with some of the many stars he worked and associated with (Ethel Merman, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe, to name just a few), to more intimate family shots which have never before been available online.
Also available are numerous curated Spotify playlists for fans to explore Berlin’s extensive catalogue, as well as introduce new listeners around the world to the songwriter’s biggest hits and lesser-known gems.
The website also offers a comprehensive resource for information on Berlin’s film and theatre work, and showcases books, albums and sheet music that are available to purchase.
Berlin’s incredible songbook remains deeply engrained in the current musical landscape of the US, UK and beyond. Contemporary pop artists who have given their own stamp to his work include Lady Gaga, Bob Dylan, Gregory Porter, Rufus Wainwright, Billie Martin, Herb Alpert, Leonard Cohen, Paul McCartney, Michael Bublé, Lily Frost, Sarah McLachlan and, most recently, Gwen Stefani on her 2017 Christmas album.
Berlin’s music continues to be widely featured in films, adverts and television shows. Lady Gaga sang God Bless America at 2017’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, whilst Seth MacFarlane covered Let’s Face the Music and Dance for the animated movie Sing.
Ad spots include Perry Como’s cover of It’s a Lovely Day Today for McDonalds (UK 2017) and Gregory Porter’s version of Puttin’ on the Ritz for Ritz crackers (UK 2015).
Berlin’s songs also frequently appear in popular TV shows, including the most recent series of America’s Got Talent and BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. On stage, Holiday Inn had a successful run on Broadway in 2016, and a film of the stage production was recently shown in cinemas across the US and broadcast on PBS.
Over five decades, Berlin produced an outpouring of ballads, dance numbers, novelty tunes and love songs that defined American popular song for much of the century.
He was equally at home writing for Broadway and Hollywood. He wrote 20 complete scores for Broadway musicals including The Cocoanuts, As Thousands Cheer, Louisiana Purchase, This Is The Army, Miss Liberty, Mr President, Call Me Madam and the phenomenally successful Annie Get Your Gun.
Recent musicals culled from his screen work include Holiday Inn, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and Top Hat (winner of the 2013 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical.)
Among the Hollywood movie musical classics with scores by Irving Berlin are Top Hat, Follow The Fleet, On The Avenue, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Holiday Inn, Blue Skies, Easter Parade, White Christmas and There’s No Business Like Show Business.
An intuitive business man, Irving Berlin was a co-founder of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), founder of his own music publishing company, and with producer Sam Harris, builder of his own Broadway theatre, The Music Box.
Irving Berlin online…………………………..