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The Incomparable Irving Berlin

May 12, 2010 by  

It was 122 years ago this week that America’s most prolific composer and lyricist was born. Israel Isidore Beilin—who became much better known as Irving Berlin—was born in Mogilev, Russia, (in what is now Belarus) on May 11, 1888. The future composer was 5 years old when his parents moved to New York City.

After his father died when Berlin was 8, he took on many menial jobs to survive, including selling newspapers and bussing tables. He was working as a singing waiter in Chinatown when the proprietor asked him to write an original song for the restaurant. “Marie From Sunny Italy” was the result. When it was published, it earned the writer the princely sum of 37 cents. It not only launched a new career for him, it also gave him a new name, when Israel Beilin was misprinted as “I. Berlin” on the sheet music.

Although he could not read music and could barely play the piano, Berlin went on to compose more than 3,000 songs, including “God Bless America,” “White Christmas,” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” His first No. 1 song was “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” When it was released in 1911, four different versions took the top four spots on the best-seller list. “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” later went on to top the charts in four successive decades—1927 (recorded by Bessie Smith), 1937 (by Louis Armstrong), 1938 (by Bing Crosby), 1947 (by Al Jolson) and 1959 (by Ray Charles).

The 1942 film Holiday Inn featured Berlin’s most-recorded song, “White Christmas.” The first recording by Bing Crosby has sold close to 100 million copies. The song’s immense popularity led to a second movie, White Christmas, which was released in 1954. Berlin won an Academy Award for “White Christmas”—one of seven Oscar nominations he received. He is the only presenter in the history of the Academy Awards to read off his own name when he opened the envelope to announce the winner in the Best Song category.

It’s hard to dispute the tribute paid him by fellow songwriter Jerome Kern, who said, “Irving Berlin is American music.” Today most schoolchildren have never heard of America’s most successful songwriter. But they know all the lyrics to Gnarls Barkley’s songs.

Some would say this is not an improvement.

—Chip Wood

Chip Wood

is the geopolitical editor of He is the founder of Soundview Publications, in Atlanta, where he was also the host of an award-winning radio talk show for many years. He was the publisher of several bestselling books, including Crisis Investing by Doug Casey, None Dare Call It Conspiracy by Gary Allen and Larry Abraham and The War on Gold by Anthony Sutton. Chip is well known on the investment conference circuit where he has served as Master of Ceremonies for FreedomFest, The New Orleans Investment Conference, Sovereign Society, and The Atlanta Investment Conference.

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  • Fred Howard

    Chip – I’m trying to find one person I can talk to or correspond with re.:
    1. A Plan to unify and mobilize Conservatives before it’s too late.

    Example: Walmart has become very successful because they’ve combined anything and everything you might need in a home under one roof so in essence it becomes a one stop shop with good pricing.

    I get hundreds of emails from different Conservative programs, causes, people, groups, movements, etc. and all are worth while and are trying to do their thing to help the conservative cause and all of them need money to survive and/or be effective. I say take the Walmart approach, combine them in a common effort, call it whatever, and get funding for the whole. Combine those that have a common objective, select a leader for that group and provide funding accordingly. I may have a way to fund this if we get our act together and present a strong, unified, cohesive, organized, structured plan of action. I will show someone how to do this and help implement but I must do #2 below.

    2. If you get out of the muck of disarray, fragmented effort, and disorganization to see the big picture, you’ll see Nazism is being reincarnated right before our very eyes. People are so wraped up in minor issues while we overlook the main problem i.e. “ISLAM Strikes Again” but this time it’s being orchestrated from the White House. We need to unify, get in the game to win, and expose Islam for what it is and how it will prevail if left unchecked. I’ve got a way to get around being Political Correct and inciting riots and provoking outright attacks on Muslim but I need a One on One with the right person. I tried all last week to get a 30 min. face to face with that person while he was in town but no one responded.

    3. If we do #1 above i.e. get our act together, I bet I can get commitments for $18 Mil. in two weeks and probably more if we create a Conservative WalMart type organization. By the way , what happens to a “WalMart” in a Socialist State?

    4. Create and present an exciting, Positive plan of action that even the poorest person in our Nation will support and contribute to. Know how Mohammed expanded Islam across Saudi Arabia in the 7th Century. He sided with the “down and out” in society and promised them a bunch of lies. They “bit” on his hype and started chopping off heads to get people to follow him. They plundered the land and killed those who resisted and split the spoils of their terror. That was their own people and they did it based on lies.

    Obama is Mohammed reincarnated. Hitler did the same thing until we stopped him. It’s not going to be so easy this time because they’ve already invaded our land and are trained as Weapons of Mass Destruction to be used when the time comes and it’s coming soon unless we get our act together and comfront it.

    Chip, I’m sorry I’m bothering you with this but I am so damned frustrated because no one will listen. If I hear from you and you want to help, I will share the name of the individual I think needs to lead the effort. I will not do that in writing so let me know if you have interest. You will probably agree with the choice when I explain the reasons. If you blow this off, you won’t be the first. Some one must want to help save our country from the Top Down starting at the bottom and working our way up. I’ll find him/her.

    If this comes about, I vote the first order of business will be to remove Obama from the White House. Give him a job on the border representing illegals who have been caught.


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