July 7, 2011

Irving Berlin


Irving Berlin [Israel Isidor Baline] [b. Russia/USA]
1888-1989

The great US composer and lyricist Irving Berlin was born Israel Isidore Baline on May 11, 1888, the son of Moses and Lipkin Baline. It is uncertain in which town he was born, but it appears he was born in a village near Mogilyov, Russia (now Belarus). His father was a cantor in the local synagogue. Like many Jewish families of the period, they were forced to flee, winding up in 1893 in New York City. Berlin's only memory of his five years in Russia was that "he was lying on a blanket by the side of a road, watching his house burn to the ground."

The family eventually settled in a Cherry Street cold-water basement flat on the Lower East Side. Unable to find work as a cantor, his father took a job at a Kosher meat market, giving Hebrew lessons on the side. The father died when his son was eight, and the boy was forced to find work as a newspaper boy to help support his family.

In order to work, Izzy had to quit school, virtually living on the streets. But the music he heard at the salons and bars drew him into song. Occasionally singing on the streets, people threw him coins, and he realized a new ambition of becoming a singing waiter.

At the age of 14, however, he realized that he was bringing in less money than any of his sisters, and he escaped home, turning to the Dickensian-like charitable institutions which had sprung up along the Bowery for the hundreds of young boys like himself.

With few marketable skills and even less experience, he had no choice but to seek his vocation of singing. Joining with a few of his friends, they nightly entered the saloons, singing for a few pennies the drinkers pitched them. He also began plugging songs at Tony Pastor's Music Hall, and, in 1906 began working as a singing waiter at the Pelham Cafe in Chinatown, singing parodies of "blues" songs to the delighted customers. It was there that he taught himself how to play the piano and began composing songs, beginning with "Marie from Sunny Italy," with the Pelham's regular pianist, Mike Nicholson. The sheet music for that piece published his name as I. Berlin, the name the boy adopted.

One evening, he performed a number of hits by another boy composer, George M. Cohan, singing to great applause "Yankee Doodle Boy," to which the saloon's Irish owner declared: "You know what you are, my boy? You're the Yiddishe Yankee Doodle!"

His local fame grew, and by 1909 found a job as a staff lyricist with the Ted Snyder Company. Within two years, Berlin's career would take a "meteoric rise" with the publication of "Alexander's Rag Time Band," more a march than a rag, and incorporating the bugle call from "Swanee River." But the tune, reviving the ragtime excitement of Scott Joplin, made Berlin a star. The song has been sung by nearly every great interpreter from Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and Al Jolson to Johnny Mercer and Ray Charles.

The song was not a hit when it first appeared in Jesse Lasky's "Follies" show, but later that year, appearing in another Broadway review that sparked attention and led to a new dance craze. Famed dancers Irene and Verson Castle sought out Berlin to write a ragtime revue from them, "Watch Your Step," which became an immediate hit, Variety describing it as "the first syncopated musical," bringing wide attention to Berlin's writing.

In the many years following, Berlin would compose hit after hit, giving music and lyrics to numerous Broadway shows and films, the likes Blue Skies, Holiday Inn, Easter Parade, and White Christmas. During World I and II, Berlin wrote patriotic songs for the American public, and throughout his career creating fabulous hit songs the likes of "Soft Lights and Sweet
Music," "Cheek to Cheek,""Always," "Puttin' on the Ritz," "Say It Isn't So," and hundreds of others.

Berlin died in his sleep on September 22, 1989 at the age of 101.

The songs I have selected below are, for copyright reasons, chosen only from his early years, but they reflect the wide range of the high and low cultural values in his work, with several numbers revealing the assimilative issues of a culture of immigrants, redefining itself within the larger whole. And, of course, I have attempted to select the most original and poetic of these early titles.

I have also provided links with several versions of each song when available.


Yiddle on Your Fiddle (Play Some Ragtime)

[1st verse:]
Ev'ryone was singing, dancing, springing
At a wedding yesterday
Yiddle on his fiddle played some ragtime
And when Sadie heard him play
She jumped up and looked him in the eyes
Yiddle swelled his chest 'way out
Ev'ryone was taken by surprise
When they heard Sadie shout

[Refrain:]
Yiddle in the middle of your fiddle, play some ragtime
Get busy
I'm dizzyI'm feeling two years young
Mine choc'late baby, if you'll maybe play for Sadie
Some more ragtime
Yiddle, don't you stop, if you do, I'll drop
For I just can't make my eyes shut up
Yiddle on your fiddle, play some ragtime

[2nd verse:]
At the supper table Sadie thought
Yiddle must have flew the coop
She looked all around, but could not find him
'Till she heard him drinking soup
Sadie waited till they served the fish
Then she jumped upon the floor
Put a quarter right on Yiddle's dish
And yelled to him once more

(1909)


Sadie Salome (Go Home)

1st verse:]
Sadie Cohen left her happy home
To become an actress lady
On the stage she soon became the rage
As the only real Salomy baby
When she came to town, her sweetheart Mose
Brought for her around a pretty rose
But he got an awful fright
When his Sadie came to sight
He stood up and yelled with all his might:

[chorus:]
Don't do that dance, I tell you Sadie
That's not a bus'ness for a lady!
'Most ev'rybody knows
That I'm your loving Mose
Oy, Oy, Oy, Oy
Where is your clothes?
You better go and get your dresses
Ev'ryone's got the op'ra glasses
Oy! such a sad disgrace
No one looks in your face
Sadie Salome, go home[

2nd verse:]
From the crowd Moses yelled out loud,
"Who put in your head such notions?
You look sweet but jiggle with your feet
Who put in your back such funny motions?
As a singer you was always fine!
Sing to me, 'Because the world is mine!'
"Then the crowd began to roar
Sadie did a new encore
Mose got mad and yelled at her once more

(1909)

After You Get What You Want You Don't Want It

[1st verse:]
Listen to me, honey dear
Something's wrong with you I fear
It's getting harder to please you
Harder and harder each year
I don't want to make you blue
But you need a talking to
Like a lot of people I know
Here's what's wrong with you

[Refrain:]
After you get what you want, you don't want it
If I gave you the moon, you'd grow tired of it soon
You're like a baby
You want what you want when you want it
But after you are presented
With what you want, you're discontented
You're always wishing and wanting for something
When you get what you want
You don't want what you get
And tho' I sit upon your knee
You'll grow tired of me'
Cause after you get what you want
You don't want what you wanted at all

[2nd verse:]
Don't you say that I'm unkind
Think it over and you'll find
You've got a changeable nature
You're always changing your mind
There's a longing in your eye
That is hard to satisfy
You're unhappy most of the time
Here's the reason why

[Alternate Line:]
And tho' you sit upon my knee

(1910)

For a performance of this by singers Gus Van and Joe Schenk in 1920, click below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sUe28J921U

For Marilyn Monroe's rendition of the song, performed in There's No Business Like Show Business, click below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9nMQrGa_3Q&feature=related


Alexander's Ragtime Band

VERSE 1:
Oh, ma hon-ey, oh, ma hon-ey, bet-ter hur-ry and let's me-an-der
Ain't you go-in'? Ain't you go-in'? To the lea-der-man, rag-ged me-ter man?
Oh, ma hon-ey, oh, ma hon-ey, Let me take you to Al-ex-an-der's
Grand stand brass band, ain't you com-in' a-long?

CHORUS:
Come on and hear! Come on and hear! Al-ex-an-der's rag-time band!
Come on and hear! Come on and hear! It's the best band in the land!
They can play a bu-gle call like you nev-er heard be-fore
So nat-u-ral that you want to go to war
That's just the best-est band what am, ma hon-ey lamb
Come on a-long, come on a-long, let me take you by the hand
Up to the man, up to the man, who's the lead-er of the band
And if you care to hear the Swa-nee Riv-er played in rag-time
Come on and hear, come on and hear,
Al-ex-an-der's Rag-Time Band.

VERSE 2:
Come and listen to the wonderful sound, hear the music that is sweapin, the town,
You'll soon be tappin your feet to a new kind of beat that keeps u happy all day long
I love to her that banjo strimmin eith to that bar, ragtime music is the greatest by far,
so come and see, you'll soon agree they are best in the land.
Come on lets give em a hand

CHORUS:
Come on and hear! Come on and hear! Al-ex-an-der's rag-time band!
Come on and hear! Come on and hear! It's the best band in the land!
They can play a bu-gle call like you nev-er heard be-fore
So nat-u-ral that you want to go to war
That's just the best-est band what am, oh, ma hon-ey lamb
Come on a-long, come on a-long, let me take you by the hand
Up to the man, up to the man, who's the lead-er of the band
And if you care to hear the Swa-nee Riv-er played in rag-time
Come on and hear, come on and hear,Al-ex-an-der's Rag-Time Band

(1911)


For an early version by Collins and Harlan, click here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFbtwoDxhQM

For the Andrews Sisters version, circa 1940, click here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPTbgvzgMZU&feature=related


Cohen Owes Me Ninety-Seven Dollars

[1st verse:]Old man Rosenthal lay sick in bed
Soon the doctor came around and said
"No use crying, the man is dying. He can't live very long!"
"Send my son here to my side," they heard the old man say
"I've got something to tell him before I pass away"
Soon his son was sitting by his bed
"What's the matter, Papa dear?" he said
The old man said, "My son, before my days are done
I want you to know:

[Refrain:]
Cohen owes me ninety-seven dollars
And it's up to you to see that Cohen pays
I sold a lot of goods to Rosenstein and Sons
On an I.O.U. for ninety days
Levi brothers don't get any credit
They owe me for one hundred yards of lace
If you promise me, my son, you'll collect from ev'ry one
I can die with a smile on my face"

[2nd verse:]
Old man Rosenthal is better now
He just simply wouldn't die somehow
He is healthy and very wealthy since he got out of bed
Such a change you never saw, he's got such rosy cheeks
He picks up in just one week what should take weeks and weeks
Ev'ryone who knew that he was sick
Couldn't tell how he got well so quick
They went and asked him to explain how he pulled through
Rosenthal replied:

[2nd refrain:]
Cohen owed me ninety-seven dollars
And my son went out and made poor Cohen pay
A bill was owed to me by Rosenstein and Sons
And they settled on that very day
What could my son do with all that money
If I should leave it all and say goodbye?
It's all right to pass away, but when people start to pay
That's no time for a bus'nessman to die

(1915)

For a wonderful performance of this song Janet Klein, with a Yiddish accent, click below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJh1iBaeang


For the 1940 version played on Victrola with Jack Ryan and orchestra, click below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfYRiV1kGqs&feature=related


They Were All Out Of Step But Jim

[Verse 1]
Jim-my's moth-er went to see her son,
March-ing a-long on pa-rade;
In his un-i-form and with his gun,
What a love-ly pic-ture he made.
She came home that ev-'ning,
Filled up with de-light;
And to all the neigh-bors,
She would yell with all her might:

[Chorus]
"Did you see my lit-tle Jim-my march-ing,
With the sol-diers up the av-en-ue?
There was Jim-my just as stiff as starch,
Like his Dad-dy on the sev-en-teenth of March.
Did you no-tice all the love-ly la-dies,
Cast-ing their eyes on him?
A-way he went,
To live in a tent;
O-ver in France with his reg-i-ment.
Were you there, and tell me, did you no-tice?
They were all out of step but Jim."

[Verse 2]
That night lit-tle Jim-my's fa-ther stood,
Buy-ing the drinks for the crowd;
You could tell that he was feel-ing good,
He was talk-ing ter-rib-ly loud.
Twen-ty times he treat-ed,
My! but he was dry;
When his glass was emp-ty,
He would treat a-gain and cry:

[Second Chorus]
"Did you see my lit-tle Jim-my march-ing,
With the sol-diers up the av-en-ue?
There was Jim-my just as stiff as starch,
Like his Dad-dy on the sev-en-teenth of March.
Did you no-tice all the love-ly la-dies,
Cast-ing their eyes on him?
It made me glad, To gaze at the lad;
Lord help the Kai- ser if he's like his Dad.
Were you there, and tell me, did you no-tice?
They were all out of step but Jim."

(1918)


Oh! How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning

[Verse 1]
The oth-er day I chanced to meet a sol-dier friend of mine,
He'd been in camp for sev-'ral weeks and he was look-ing fine;
His mus-cles had de-vel-oped and his cheeks were ros-y red,
I asked him how he liked the life, and this is what he said:

[Chorus]
"Oh! how I hate to get up in the morn-ing,
Oh! how I'd love to re-main in bed;
For the hard-est blow of all, is to hear the bu-gler call;
You've got to get up, you've got to get up,
you've got to get up this morn-ing!
Some-day I'm go-ing to mur-der the bu-gler,
Some day they're go-ing to find him dead;
I'll amp-u-tate his rev-eil-le and step up-on it heav-i-ly,
And spend the rest of my life in bed."

[Verse 2]
A bu-gler in the arm-y is the luck-i-est of men,
He wakes the boys at five and then goes back to bed a-gain;
He does-n't have to blow a-gain un-til the af-ter-noon,
If ev-'ry-thing goes well with me, I'll be a bu-gler soon.

[Second Chorus]
"Oh! how I hate to get up in the morn-ing,
Oh! how I'd love to re-main in bed;
For the hard-est blow of all, is to hear the bu-gler call;
You've got to get up, you've got to get up,
you've got to get up this morn-ing!
Oh! boy the min-ute the bat-tle is o-ver,
Oh! boy the min-ute the foe is dead;
I'll put my un-i-form a-way, and move to Phil-a-del-phi-a,
And spend the rest of my life in bed."

(1918)

For a performance of the above song from the 1943 movie This Is the Army, click below
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71smG5d29to



I'll See You (in C-u-b-a)

[1st verse:]
Not so far from here
There's a very lively atmosphere
Ev'rybody's going there this year
And there's a reason
The season opened last July
Ever since the U.S.A. went dry
Ev'rybody's going there and I'm going, too
I'm on my way to

[Refrain:]
Cuba, there's where I'm going
Cuba, there's where I'll stay
Cuba, where wine is flowing
And where dark-eyed Stellas
Light their fellers' Panatellas
Cuba, where all is happy
Cuba, where all is gay
Why don't you plan a
Wonderful trip
To Havana?
Hop on a ship
And I'll see you in C.U.B.A.

[2nd verse:]
Take a friend's
in a cellar isn't nice
Anybody who has got the price
Should be a Cuban
Have you been longing for the 'smile
'That you haven't had for quite a while?
If you have, then follow me and I'll show the way
I'm on my way to

[Counterpoint Refrain:]
Why don't you do your drinking like a Cuban
Instead of hiding in a cellar?
Since Prohibition, tell me, pal, have you been
A very frightened little feller?
Why don't you pour it from the bottle'
Stead of a tiny silver flask?
Drink your Scotch, rum and gin
Where the dries can't get in
The finest bars are there, cigars are there
That only are made in Cuba
I'm not a drinking lady, I never smoked a Panatella
But I'm a she who likes to be where all is gay, okay!
So let us leave our cares and troubles behind
And tell 'em our new address
Is where they stay up late and drink till they're blind?
Blind, but nevertheless
They're glad to see you in C.U.B.A.

[Coda:]
Why don't you travel with us on a train or a bus
To Miami where we can begin
To plan a wonderful trip on a plane or a ship
That'll take us from Florida to Havana?
See you in C.U.B.A!

[Alternate Lines:]
Cuba, that's where I'm going
Cuba, that's where I'll stay
And where those dark-eyed Stellas

(1920)

To hear Jack Kaufman sing this song in 1920, click below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gODW7ThUfbA

I prefer the Billy Murray recording of 1920. To hear it, click below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gODW7ThUfbA

For a performance by Bing Crosby and Olga San Juan from movie, Blue Skies, click below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0P32JDQk4c&feature=related

No comments: