Thursday, September 10, 2015

Be Like Irving Berlin

HOLIDAY INN and show biz legend Irving Berlin.  I'll use them to make a point about this whole Kentucky clerk Kim Davis situation.  Berlin wrote many of the longtime standards in our American Songbook of popular music.  He was a Russian-born Jew who came to America and wrote great songs for Broadway and Hollywood musicals.  He lived to be 101.  I'm sure you're already familiar with his high place in America's Broadway and Hollywood music history.  I pray this doesn't make me sound unpatriotic.  When I was in Catholic grade school, Sister Mary Magdalena taught us youngsters a song to sing for a special afternoon assembly.  The tune was "God Bless America," one of the many songs by Irving Berlin.  That song stirred me more than the national anthem did.  And it was in my vocal range.  It was written by a man who wasn't born here.  He was born overseas.  He became an American.  "God Bless America" was sung in the wake of the September 11th attacks in 2001.  Our wounded spirits needed his song.
When movies learned to talk, audiences heard an Irving Berlin song.  Al Jolson sang "Blue Skies" in 1927's The Jazz Singer, the film that ushered in the sound era.

Berlin wrote songs that became signature tunes for Ethel Merman -- such as "There's No Business Like Show Business" in the Broadway hit Annie Get Your Gun.                                                                      

He wrote all the songs in an original 1935 Hollywood musical comedy called Top Hat starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  The title tune became Fred Astaire's theme song.  He wrote their songs for Follow the Fleet and Carefree.

He wrote all the songs performed by Fred Astaire and Judy Garland in 1948's Easter Parade.

Paramount Pictures was filming a new movie called HOLIDAY INN.  Like Easter Parade, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Blue Skies and 1954's There's No Business Like Show Business, this was a Hollywood musical with new and some old songs by Irving Berlin.  Holiday Inn starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.  For Crosby, Irving Berlin wrote a new song called "White Christmas."
Apparently, he never said to Paramount executives "Hey, guys.  I'm a Russian Jew.  My religious beliefs don't include Christmas.  I can't write a Christmas song for Crosby."  He wrote it because....that was his job for the film.  For doing his job, he won the Oscar for Best Song of 1942.  Bing Crosby had a huge hit record with "White Christmas."  He sang the song again in 1946's Blue Skies and the 1954 musical White Christmas co-starring Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen.

Irving Berlin did his job -- and we were all culturally the better for it.

Consider our United States Postal Service.  Think of all the Jewish letter carriers who did their job and put Christmas cards and catalogues in your mailbox during the holiday season.

As for Kim Davis, she did not have to go to such law-breaking extremes to show her religious opposition to gay rights, marriage equality and this year's Supreme Court ruling.

You can just tell from her hair, make-up and wardrobe that she she doesn't have any gay male friends in her life.

As Irving Berlin wrote and sang, "God Bless America."

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