Cole Porter famously remarked that he knew of no one who sat down specifically to write a hit, “except Irving Berlin. He can’t help writing hits.” And we can’t help but agree. In his tremendously full life, Berlin went from abject poverty in his home of Belarus, to the tenement neighborhoods of New York City, to being the most sought-after composer in every Broadway and Hollywood producer’s Rolodex. His broad range of life experiences gave him the inspiration to write more than 1500 songs, all of which reach to the heart of the human experience.
Irving Berlin truly is a man of many seasons, and no matter what time of year it is, it’s always a perfect time for one (or several!) of his tunes. Join us as we mark the seasons with just a few of Berlin’s most beloved classics.
Fifteen years passed between the original publication of this tune and its rise to fame in both musicals and films. Berlin originally penned the number to cheer up a woman whose beau was fighting overseas in World War I. This version, titled “Smile and Show Your Dimple,” was recorded in 1918 by Sam Ash. Berlin resurrected the melody in 1933 with the now familiar seasonal lyrics as the Act I finale in the Broadway musicals As Thousands Cheer, a sometimes satirical, sometimes poignant take on the news happenings of the time. The song made an appearance again in the films Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Easter Parade and Holiday Inn, the latter of which was adapted for the stage and charmed Broadway audiences in 2016.
On the Avenue, Fifth Avenue,
The photographers will snap us
And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure
Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet
And of the girl I’m taking to the Easter Parade
The Easter Parade in New York City began in the mid-1870s as a religious event. By the time the song was written, however, the annual parade was largely secular, and the bonneted masses were only too happy to welcome “Easter Parade” as their anthem for strolling and showing off on a fresh spring morning with the hopes of making news with their finery.
How many chart-topping hits do you know that include the word “rotogravure?”