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Description - As Thousands Cheer by Laurence Bergreen

Irving Berlin (1888-1989) was unable to read or write music and could only play the piano in the key of F-sharp major yet, for the first half of the twentieth century he was America's most successful and most representative songwriter, composing such hits as "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Cheek to Cheek," "Let's Face the Music and Dance," "Puttin' on the Ritz," "White Christmas," "Anything You Can Do," "There's No Business Like Show Business," and "God Bless America." As Thousands Cheer, winner of the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award, explores with precision and sensitivity Berlin's long, prolific career his self-doubt and late-blooming misanthropy and the tyrannical control he exerted over his legacy of song. From his immigrant beginnings through Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, and Hollywood to his reclusive and bitter final years, this definitive biography reveals the man who wrote 1500 songs but could never quash the fear that, for all his success, he wasn't quite good enough.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780306806759
ISBN-10: 0306806754
Format: Paperback
(216mm x 140mm x 45mm)
Pages: 702
Imprint: Da Capo Press Inc
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 1-Mar-1996
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions - As Thousands Cheer by Laurence Bergreen

Book Reviews - As Thousands Cheer by Laurence Bergreen

US Kirkus Review » From the author of the uneven James Agee: A Life (1984): a long, detailed, yet dullish and superficial biography of "the greatest songwriter in our nation's history." Bergreen brings little that's new to the oft-told tale of Berlin's rise to international fame: the poor immigrant kid who became a nervy, popular singing waiter, then a hack deviser of parodies, then a rich celebrity - with the super, success of "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Familiar, too, is the domestic history: the death, soon after their honeymoon, of Berlin's first wife; his headline-making courtship, a decade later, of an upper-crust heiress with an anti-Semitic father. New interview material does fill out some of Berlin's later career: Hollywood projects in the Thirties and Forties; the B'way-and-world-tour of This Is the Army, his WW II morale booster; his disastrous B'way swan song, Mr. President. But the fresh anecdotes and details (some quite unflattering) are often given undue weight - perhaps because Berlin's family and closest associates (in accord with IB's wishes) declined to give Bergreen any assistance. With iffy evidence, then, Bergreen portrays Berlin as an insecure workaholic, a slave to popular tastes, a trigger-tempered tyrant, a sometime miser (though vastly generous too), and - especially in later years - a reclusive, depressed man without "the gift of friendship." (The tone is frequently patronizing: "Poor driven Irving," etc.) On the songs themselves, Bergreen is even shakier: most are barely mentioned; important, lesser-known songs are ignored; and the few stabs at critical analysis are obvious, unconvincing, or (on musical matters especially) muddled. Too shallow for aficionados, too long and flat for casual readers (who might enjoy the thrice-told anecdotes): a competent gathering of materials, delivered without style, wit, or passion. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Laurence Bergreen

Laurence Bergreen is the author of acclaimed biographies of James Agee and Al Capone. A writer for numerous publications, including Esquire, Newsweek, New York Times, and American Film, he lives in New York City.

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