Always

A singer’s journey through the life of Irving Berlin

 

Like most baby boomers, I grew up hearing his songs and taking them for granted. I never gave a thought to who Irving Berlin was or how he had come to write the music that flowed through our lives. In the 1970s I saw a newspaper photograph of him singing “God Bless America” in the Nixon White House during Watergate and immediately consigned both him and the song to the “wrong” side. Read more »

He Wanted To Murder The Bugler

Fifty years ago America went into World War I—singing. Irving Berlin, who put some of the songs upon our lips, recalls for American Heritage those gallant and somehow marvelously innocent days.

At the beginning of 1917 the air in America was vibrant with a strong, unfocused, and oddly unwarlike patriotism. The war in Europe was fascinating and it closely touched American interests, but it was a long way off and it seemed like a good war to stay out of.Read more »

All Join In The Chorus

For almost two decades at the turn of the century illustrated songs charmed nickelodeon audiences.

It is nearly a half-century now since there occurred one of the swifter but less regrettable casualties of American culture—the passing of a form of professional entertainment known as the illustrated song. A strange phenomenon native to music halls, dime museums, vaudeville, and the early, early silent movies, the song play, as it was billed in places with pretensions, enjoyed a brief but unforgettable craze during the first dozen years of this century.