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Born: Israel Isidore Baline (or Beilin), May 11, 1888, near Mohilev, Russia
Died: September 22, 1989 (age 101), New York City
Primary songwriting roles: composer and lyricist; also music publisher
Co-writers: almost entirely himself; Click here for a database of the few Irving Berlin co-writers.
Alec Wilder, perhaps the premier critic of American popular song of the period of The Songbook, concludes his chapter on Irving Berlin thus:
Let it be said that he is the best all-around, over-all songwriter America has ever had. In this area or that, I will say, and have said, that I believe so-and-so to be the master. But I can speak of only one composer as the master of the entire range of popular song -- Irving Berlin (p. 120, hardcover Ed.).
Many have noted that Irving Berlin songs have become anthems for some of the most treasured American institutions: Christmas ("White Christmas"); Easter ("Easter Parade"); show busines ("There's No Business Like Show Business") and America itself ("God Bless America").
No doubt these songs played a role in causing Jerome Kern to answer, in the way he famously did, the question, "What is Irving Berlin's place in American music?" Kern replied, "There is no place for Irving Berlin in American music -- Irving Berlin is American music."
In his interview with Irving Berlin, Max Wilk relates that the name of an important songwriter came up, and Wilk told Berlin that this here unnamed figure told him that when he writes, "the song must please him first -- and then if his own taste is lucky enough to coincide with the public's, he has a popular song."
According to Wilk, that upon hearing the above, "Berlin burst into laughter. 'He told you that, did he?' [Berlin] chortled. 'All right, I'll tell you what I think about that. I write a song to please the public -- and if the public doesn't like it in New Haven [where Broadway shows typically held their previews], I change it!'" (Wilk, p. 340, hardcover Ed.).
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1982 Academy Awards salute to Irving Berlin : kjanson
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Master List of Great American Songbook Songwriters
Names of songwriters who have written at least one song included in the Cafe Songbook Catalog of The Great American Songbook are listed below.
Names of songwriters with two or more song credits in the catalog (with rare exceptions) are linked to their own Cafe Songbook pages, e.g. Fields, Dorothy.
Names of songwriters with only one song credit in the catalog are linked to the Cafe Songbook page for that song, on which may be found information about the songwriter or a link to an information source for him or her.
Please note: Cafe Songbook pages for songwriters are currently in various stages of development.