REReader (rereader) wrote,
REReader
rereader

May your days be merry and bright

I don't think this song needs much of an introduction--here's "White Christmas" by Irving Berlin, sung by Bing Crosby and Martha Mears (dubbing actress Marjorie Reynolds), in the movie Holiday Inn:

Video posted by alpineic1. (Only the first two and half minutes or so of the video are from the film.)

Or, if you prefer, a cover by Bette Midler that includes the rarely-recorded first verse:


Video posted by Bette Midler - Topic, provided to YouTube by Sony Music Entertainment


The song was written for the aforementioned Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire vehicle Holiday Inn and became an instant classic. Crosby's version of "White Christmas" is the best selling record of all time,* the single selling at least 50 million copies; when all the various covers (over 500 at current reckoning) are taken into account, the song is estimated to have sold over 150 million copies and there has even been an entire book written about it. All this despite--or perhaps because of?--the fact that it's not so much about Christmas itself as, as the lyrics tell us, a dream or fantasy of what an ideal Christmas ought to be.

***


Irving Berlin has no place in American music--he is American music.

--Jerome Kern



What can one say about the famously-Jewish Irving Berlin? Starting out desperately poor, quite literally scrambling for pennies on the streets of New York, he ended up the enormously successful songwriter of 20 Broadway shows, 17 movies, and over 1500 songs, an inordinate percentage of which became part of the American musical vernacular. And all this despite the fact that he had no formal education past age eight (he left school to help support his family) and never did learn how to read or write music--he could only play piano by ear, in one key. He was a co-founder of ASCAP, founder of his own music publishing company, and, with Sam Harris, builder of Broadway's Music Box Theater. Among his many awards was the Congressional Medal of Honor for writing "God Bless America." ** George Gershwin called him "the greatest songwriter that has ever lived," and, in the Kennedy Center Tribute to Irving Berlin, Walter Cronkite said

Other nations are defined by their classical composers. America, appropriately, is defined musically by this Russian immigrant.



Video posted by Dia Reinhardt

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* Since the Crosby's single was released before singles charts were a thing, I'm going by the conclusions of the researchers at the Guiness Book of World Records.

** All profits from "God Bless America," by the way, go to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America, and always have. Berlin wrote the song during WWI for an army revue, but didn't use it. When Kate Smith went to him for a song to use in 1938, he pulled it from his trunk and offered it to her (with some lyric revisions), and that's the song we know now.
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