Viking Hardcover, 1990
Penguin Trade Paperback, 1991
Da Capo Press Trade Paperback, 1996
Hodder & Stoughton (UK) Hardcover, 1990
Collier Trade Paperback, 1991
New York Times
Vivid…impressive…. A substantial contribution to our knowledge, not just of Irving Berlin but of American vernacular music.
Bergreen’s work is a major accomplishment. It will probably stand as the definitive biography of a man whose fathomless well of unforgettable melody and rare gift for simple, homey, touching lyrics made his songs among the best.
Authoritative and fascinating…. Because the texture of Bergreen’s book is so rich, so full of details of the times surrounding Berlin’s songs, it becomes a kind of show-biz history, too.
Daily Mail (U.K.)
An almost perfect biography…. What a life, and what a book.
A remarkable feat…. An intriguing look at a troubled, misunderstood, intense talent…. Very informative.
– Larry King
Awards and Accolades
- ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for Excellence in Music Journalism
- Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award, First Place
- New York Times Notable Book of 1990
- Bestseller on Ingram, Doubleday, and Newsday Lists
Irving Berlin was fifty-three when President Roosevelt declared war on Japan. By Tin Pan Alley standards, the songwriter hovered on the verge of extreme old age. Had he never written another film score, another Broadway show, another lyric, another note, his reputation as the leading popular American songwriter was secure. The list of his enduring creations included “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “God Bless America,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “All Alone,” “Remember,” “Cheek to Cheek,” and “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” They defined the nation’s musical language. Holiday Inn, the movie containing “White Christmas,” would be released the following summer, and Berlin would be able to sit back and watch the money roll in.
Always the zealot when it came to work, Irving had a different notion of what he should be doing with himself at this juncture in his life. The prospect of war sent a shudder of dread through the American people, but it also created a thrill of excitement. Berlin the showman responded to that quickening of the national pulse. “Songs make history and history makes songs,” he said. “It needed a French Revolution to make a ‘Marseillaise’ and the bombardment of Fort McHenry to give voice to ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.'” The war simplified everything for him. Now he knew exactly what to do: restage the surprise hit of his youth, Yip! Yip! Yaphank. Previously, he had sung of personal dramas–romance and woes and funny little incidents–but now he struggled to give a voice to national and even international issues, to locate himself in history, and to make a place for himself in what publisher Henry Luce termed “The American Century.”
(C) Laurence Bergreen. All rights reserved