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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Detailed Biography, September 15, 2002
Bill Emblom "Bill Emblom" (Ishpeming, Michigan USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Irving Berlin: American Troubadour (Hardcover)
Author Edward Jablonski has written a very thorough book covering the life of Irving Berlin. This is the third biography I have read on Irving Berlin and in many ways it is much the same as the other two. One thing I did notice in this book is the detailed plot explanations of Berlin's plays that he wrote over the years. I did not necessarily care for all this detail, but it does provide the reader with information he may or may not care about. As an introductory book on Irving Berlin I would recommend "Irving Berlin--A Life in Song" by Philip Furia. Author Jablonski's book "American Troubadour" or Laurence Bergreen's book entitled "As Thousands Cheer" would be best read for someone who already has some introductory knowledge of Irving Berlin.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A LONG, FASCINATING LIFE, December 19, 2003
One of the things I particularly liked about Jablonski's biography of Berlin is that it didn't just talk about his successes, but also discussed his failures, and his lifelong insecurities. It would seem that Berlin could never rest on his laurels, but had a strong need to heap on success after success. America's musical heritage is much the greater for this trait.
This same trait, however, was the cause of depression for Berlin whenever one of his musicals was panned by the critics, and several of them were. I should add, however, that he had a great many more successes than failures.
Musically, his career spanned a period lasting from 1907 when he wrote the lyrics to "Marie, from Sunny Italy," until 1966 when he wrote "An Old Fashioned Wedding."
The song that really brought him fame was "Alexander's Ragtime Band," first sung in 1911 by a then famous vaudeville star, Emma Carus. This was the beginning of a long history of popular hit songs and musicals.
Some of his songs that have become a permanent part of the American musical repertoire are: "White Christmas," "Easter Parade," and, of course, Kate Smith's rendition of "God Bless America." Interestingly, "God Bless America" had been a sort of throw-away song when it was written, not being sung at the time. Many years after it was written, when Kate Smith needed a patriotic song in the World War II years, Berlin pulled it out of "the bottom of the trunk," so to speak. There are many more Berlin songs with which we are all familiar, but the three just mentioned are adequate examples.
Berlin's life went from that of a preteen runaway who survived by selling newspapers on a street corner, to that of a bar room entertainer, to a music hustler, to a song writer, to a musical show writer and theater owner, to, in his last years (from his 80's to his death at the age of 101), a virtual recluse.
Jablonski discusses all of these phases in great detail, and we come away feeling that we really know Berlin.
There was one thing in this biography that I felt could only be of interest to another song-writer. This was when Jablonski would give long examples of the make-up of various chords in a given song. Other than this detail, which one could skip if he or she wished, I felt that this was a superior biography.
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Irving Berlin: American Troubadour
Irving Berlin: American Troubadour by Edward Jablonski (Hardcover - April 22, 1999)
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