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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

Irving Berlin on This Week's 'American Popular Song'


Has any songwriter written a more consistent body of love songs than Irving Berlin? These are plentiful on this week's Art of American Popular Song, along with Berlin's holiday anthems of "God Bless America," "White Christmas," and "Easter Parade." It's impossible to cite all of Berlin's songs, and to be truthful, they were not all exceptional. Nevertheless, of his over 1,200 songs, 25 rose to number one on the pop charts. He also completed scores to 17 Broadway musicals and revues.


All of this success made Irving Berlin a wealthy man. It also made him highly protective of his creative rights. Just ask film producer George Kaufman and his daughter Ann Kaufman Schneider. He was steadfast to the end in prohibiting their use of his song, Always. Why? You'll have to listen to the show to get the story, so well told by Ann Kaufman Schneider. But there was also a very generous side to Berlin. In 1940, he assigned all royalties from "God Bless America" to the God Bless America Fund. Ever since, this fund has been a generous contributor to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. It's a gift that will continue to give for the foreseeable future.


Credit Photo@Mike Mike Martin
Ann Kaufman Schneider (above) and Kitty Carlisle Hart

In addition to Ann Kaufman Schneider's story of the exception to “I'll be loving you, Always,” there is a charming story by Kitty Carlisle Hart about a certain telephone call made by Ellin Mackay, later to be Ellin Berlin, to Irving. Miss Carlisle Hart also tells another story, not part of the original airing of The Art of Irving Berlin, which speaks to her ability to charm the at times irascible Irving Berlin.


A little known side of Irving Berlin is revealed in the revue "As Thousands Cheer." Not only did the show speak to the almost constant harassment of Irving and Ellin Berlin by the paparazzi of the day, but it also showed a social conscience not often apparent in Berlin's songs. "Supper Time" speaks to the issue of racism in America in one of Berlin's most powerful songs.


Credit Gift of Robert L. B. Tobin TL1999.70 / McNay Art Museum
McNay Art Museum
Home Again, from Fiorello, scene design by Jean and William Eckart

"The Art of American Popular Song," originally a series of seven shows focused upon the Great American Songbook, is being re-broadcast weekly through June 11 in parallel with the current show at the McNay's Brown Gallery, "Broadway: 100 Years of Musical Theatre." Thus, each of the original shows (this week's is The Art of Irving Berlin) is being presented with a brief “prelude” which seeks intersections of the McNay's exhibition and the radio series The Art of American Popular Song. This gives an opportunity for Jody Blake, curator of The Tobin Collection of Theatre Art, to point out other instances of social commentary, sometimes even social protest, in the world of musical theater. This week, she considers Fiorello, a musical represented in the McNay show by several costume and scene designs by Jean and William Eckart. There are other instances of social and political commentary in the show, including Oliver Smith's scene designs for "West Side Story," and Sointu Syrjala's designs for Harold Rome's "Pins and Needles."


"The Art of American Popular Song" continues on KPAC and KTXI every Sunday afternoon at 2:00 through June 11. Broadway: 100 Years of Musical Theatre will hang at the McNay through mid-June.


American Popular Song: Volume 2

The Art of Irving Berlin


  1. Opening Segment [11:57]

    1. There’s No Business Like Show Business (Tom Wopat, EMI 56812)

    2. Blue Skies (Kiri Te Kanawa, EMI 56415)

    3. The Song is Ended (Joan Morris, Nonesuch 79120)

    4. Cheek to Cheek (Ella Fitzgerald, Verve 314 543 830)

    5. Alexander’s Ragtime Band (Ella Fitzgerald, Verve 314 533 829)


  1. Soldier-Patriot [20:07]

    1. Alexander’s Ragtime Band (Ted Lewis and Orchestra)

    2. Mandy (Eddy Cantor, Columbia Art Deco)

    3. Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning (Irving Berlin, Universal Classics)

    4. This is the Army, Mr. Jones (Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Sony)

    5. God Bless America (Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Sony)

    6. White Christmas (Bing Crosby, Time-Life 802)

    7. Easter Parade (Kiri Te Kanawa, EMI 56415)


  1. Society Marriage [23:45]

    1. It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow (Frank Sinatra, Double Gold 53057)

    2. When I Lost You (Jimmy Durante, Warner)

    3. Lazy (Joan Morris, Nonesuch 79120)

    4. What’ll I Do? (Kiri Te Kanawa, EMI 56415)

    5. All Alone (Benny Carter, Fantasy)

    6. Puttin’ on the Ritz (Fred Astaire, Verve 314 533 829)

    7. Always (Bruce Hubbard, EMI 49928)

    8. Say It Isn’t So (Billie Holiday, Verve 314 531 636)


  1. As Thousands Cheer [16:29]

    1. Heat Wave (Cal Tjader, Concord 4010)

    2. Man Bites Dog (Drama Dept., VSD 5999)

    3. The Funnies (B.D. Wong, VSD 5999)

    4. How’s Chances? (Ella Fitzgerald, Verve 314 543 830)

    5. Heat Wave (Ethel Waters, Rhino 71506)

    6. Supper Time (Ethel Waters, Verve 314 531 636)


  1. Annie Get Your Gun [14:50]

    1. You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun (Ethel Merman, Decca 159 243)

    2. Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly (Ethel Merman, Decca 159 243)

    3. They Say It’s Wonderful (Bernadette Peters/Tom Wopat, EMI 56812)

    4. Anything You Can Do (Thomas Hampson/Kim Criswell, EMI 72037)

    5. The Girl That I Marry (Frank Sinatra, Double Gold 53057)


  1. Postscript [2:13]

    1. There’s No Business Like Show Business (Tom Wopat, EMI 56812)

James first introduced himself to KPAC listeners at midnight on April 8, 1993, presenting Dvorak's 7th Symphony played by the Cleveland Orchestra. Soon after, he became the regular overnight announcer on KPAC.