As Thousands Cheer: The Life of Irving Berlin

Overview

Irving Berlin (1888–1989) was unable to read or write music and could only play the piano in the key of F-sharp major; yet, for the first half of the twentieth century he was America's most successful and most representative songwriter, composing such hits as "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Cheek to Cheek," "Let's Face the Music and Dance," "Puttin' on the Ritz," "White Christmas," "Anything You Can Do," "There's No Business Like Show Business," and "God Bless America." As Thousands Cheer, winner of the Ralph J. ...

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Overview

Irving Berlin (1888–1989) was unable to read or write music and could only play the piano in the key of F-sharp major; yet, for the first half of the twentieth century he was America's most successful and most representative songwriter, composing such hits as "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Cheek to Cheek," "Let's Face the Music and Dance," "Puttin' on the Ritz," "White Christmas," "Anything You Can Do," "There's No Business Like Show Business," and "God Bless America." As Thousands Cheer, winner of the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award, explores with precision and sensitivity Berlin's long, prolific career; his self-doubt and late-blooming misanthropy; and the tyrannical control he exerted over his legacy of song. From his immigrant beginnings through Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, and Hollywood to his reclusive and bitter final years, this definitive biography reveals the man who wrote 1500 songs but could never quash the fear that, for all his success, he wasn't quite good enough.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A look at the life and prolific career of one of America's most successful songwriters.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The man Jerome Kern said was American music wrote 1500 songs a list is included, had an unerring insight into popular taste, graduated with meteoric swiftness from singing for pennies in Manhattan's unsavory Lower East Side saloons to Broadway and Hollywood tycoondom, and lived to be 101. In this biography, widely researched and buttressed with a mass of interviews, Bergreen, author of the acclaimed James Agee , brings us the life of a man who, in addition to being an untrained tunesmith of genius--who pounded out such hits as ``Alexander's Ragtime Band,'' ``God Bless America,'' ``This Is the Army'' and ``White Christmas,'' plus many show tunes, with quick-fire regularity--was reclusive, insecure and, toward the end of his life, paranoid. He died in 1989. Berlin's story, richly and skillfully told here, is not only the story of popular American music, studded with such names as Kern, Rodgers, Hart, Hammerstein, Gershwin, Cole Porter and Fred Astaire, but approaches being the story of 20th-century America. Photos. July
Library Journal
Irving Berlin has long been recognized as one of this century's greatest popular composers, yet no book until this one has brought to life every level of this complicated man's personality. Bergreen, author of the acclaimed James Agee: A Life LJ 6/15/84, begins with an evocative description of the 1893 immigration of Berlin's family from Russia to the lively Jewish neighborhood of New York's Lower East Side. Berlin went on to write some of the great anthems of his generation. Though Bergreen has tremendous admiration for his subject, he is hard-hitting and explicit about Berlin's failings. Indeed, some readers may be uncomfortable with the author's portrayal of the composer as the tormented show business near-equivalent of Howard Hughes. Yet Bergreen never loses sight of Berlin's basic genius. Recommended for most collections, this compelling book will remain the standard for many years.-- Daniel J. Lombardo, Jones Lib., Inc., Amherst, Mass.
Booknews
Irving Berlin (1888-1989) was unable to read or write music and could only play the piano in the key of F sharp major, yet for the first half of the 20th century, he was America's most successful major songwriter. This biography explores Berlin's early beginnings, his long, prolific career, and the bitterness and misanthropy of his later years. This is an unabridged reprint of the 1990 Viking edition. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306806759
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1996
  • Edition description: 1st Da Capo Press ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 704
  • Sales rank: 551,645
  • Product dimensions: 5.59 (w) x 8.55 (h) x 1.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Laurence Bergreen is the author of acclaimed biographies of James Agee and Al Capone. A writer for numerous publications, including Esquire, Newsweek, New York Times, and American Film, he lives in New York City.

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