Irving Berlin: Say it with Music

Title: Say it with Music
Author: Tom Streissguth
Pages: 64
Recommended Ages: 9 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

Hi there! As of October 2013, I have upgraded to a new site – The Blithering Bookster – where I have posted all of my old reviews and continue to post new ones. Hoist yourself over to join the fun!

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I’d never heard of Irving Berlin before purchasing this book. I thought he would be some small fry composer. Imagine my shock to discover that he was the composer behind White Christmas, God Bless America and a host of other popular songs, some of them favorites of mine…

His Life.

Born in Russia, Irving Berlin immigrated to America with his family in the 1890s after their house and belongings were destroyed in a pogrom. Only then he wasn’t Irving Berlin. He was Israel Baline. As a young boy, he sold newspapers on the streets of New York City and, as this was often a dull job, he passed his time singing. He soon discovered that his voice earned as much for him as the newspapers he was selling.

Irving decided to make a living off of his voice – he began to perform is saloons, and soon, he was hired by Harry Von Tilzer, a music publisher, to help popularize the songs that he was publishing. From popularizing the works of other musicians to composing his own jingles was a natural progression.

From there, Irving was hired to compose a songs for Broadway shows. It was during this time that Irving met Dorothy Goetz. They married quickly and were happy together for five short months before Dorothy died of typhoid fever.

When WWI began, Berlin was drafted into the U. S. Army. Although marched about and drilled from morning to night, Irving still found time to write, and even put on a show (Yip, Yip, Yaphank) that earned $80,000 for the U. S. Army.

Irving struggled to adjust to the changes in the music industry after WWI. But he kept fighting and writing and making a name for himself. Soon, Irving met and married Ellin Mackay. Together, they had three daughters – Mary, Linda, and Elizabeth.

Irving’s many wonderful compositions live on and are still enjoyed but millions across the globe.

Cautions.

Irving marries his second wife against her father’s wishes. Her father disinherited her when he heard of her marriage.

Luck and magic are each mentioned once.

Concluions. A fine introduction to one of Broadway’s great composers.

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