This man in America became what Isaac Dunaevsky was in the USSR. Honoring Irving Berlin on his 100th birthday was marked by a large concert at Carnegie Hall, which was attended by Leonard Bernstein, Isaac Stern, Frank Sinatra and other celebrities.
His creative work includes music for 19 Broadway musicals, 18 films, and a total of about 1000 songs. Moreover, 450 of them are famous hits, 282 were among the top ten in popularity, and 35 were honored to form the immortal song heritage of America. And one of them – “God Bless America” – acquired the status of the unofficial US anthem.
God Bless America Land that I love…
2001, September 11 – the day of the American tragedy. An emergency meeting with the participation of the Senate and members of the US Congress was called to discuss the situation. After short alarming speeches, the hall froze for a while. All those present began to whisper the words of a mournful prayer for the people whose lives were cut short by the terrible tragedy.
One of the senators said louder than the others: “God bless America, the land that I love…” and hundreds of people echoed his voice. A patriotic song was played that Irving Berlin wrote while still serving in the army.
God Bless America
20 years later, he created a new version of it, which was sung by American front-line soldiers of the 2nd World War, they also sang it in the rear, and it still sounds today when national holidays are celebrated.
A great composer who did not know notes…
His real name is Israel Beilin. The father of the future celebrity was a cantor in the Mogilev synagogue. In search of a better life, the family came to New York, but the father died three years later. The boy spent 2 years in school and was forced to sing on the streets in the Eastside to earn his living.
At the age of 19, he wrote the lyrics to his first song, which was published. But due to an unfortunate mistake by the typesetter, the author was named Irving Berlin. And this name subsequently became the composer’s pseudonym until the end of his long life.
The young man had absolutely no knowledge of musical notation, mastering music by ear. He wrote it in his own way, playing the melody to his assistant pianists. I only used black keys. Since the composer never played from notes, Berlin’s musical notations simply do not exist.
Printable sheet music for this song – HERE
The main song of life
The acquisition of American citizenship was followed by military service. In 1918, Irving wrote his first patriotic musical, “Yip Yip – Yaphank,” for its finale, and “God Bless America” was written in the format of a solemn prayer. Its name was later used in the titles of several famous books and films.
The song lay in the archives… for twenty years. It, slightly reworked, is performed on the radio for the first time by singer Kate Smith. And this song immediately becomes a sensation: the whole country sings it with special reverence. In 2002, the hit “God Bless America” was performed by Martina McBride and it became something of her calling card. During the performance of this masterpiece, thousands of people stand respectfully in large stadiums and concert halls.
For this song, Irving Berlin received the Military Medal of Merit from US President Harry Truman. Another President, Eisenhower, awarded the song’s author the Congressional Gold Medal, and Ford, the third American President, presented him with the Medal of Freedom.
For Irving Berlin’s centenary, the US Postal Department issued a stamp with his portrait against the background of the text “God Bless America.”
Caring son and loving husband
World recognition was followed by fame and money. The first thing he bought was a house for his mother. One day he brought her to the Bronx to put her in a beautiful apartment. The son loved his mother very much and treated her with great respect until the end of her days. Above his bed all his life hung a portrait of the one who gave him life.
Irwin Berlin’s first marriage was short. His wife Dorothy, during their honeymoon (the couple spent it in Cuba), contracted typhus and soon died. 14 years of widowhood and a new marriage. Irwin’s chosen one, the daughter of a millionaire, Helen McKay, broke off her engagement to a famous lawyer, preferring a talented musician. This couple lived in a happy marriage for 62 years. A year after the death of his dearly beloved wife, Irving Berlin himself ended his life.
He was not a Native American, but he honored and blessed America with his song from the bottom of his heart.