Guest Author - Amber Grey
Composer Irving Berlin has contributed many timeless pieces of music to stage and film. Although Berlin said that he was never directly inspired by events or people, pieces of life can be found in the works he produced. For instance, in the midst of grieving over the death of his first wife, Dorothy Goetz, Berlin was encouraged by a friend to write a song about her. The song was “When I Lost
You.” Another inspiration that can be found throughout his work is his ardent patriotism for his beloved U.S.A.
When Berlin served in the US Army during WW I, it was a poignant time in his life where Berlin composed a lot of patriotic songs. In order to entertain his fellow troops while being stationed in Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York, Berlin composed a two-act revue “Yip Yip Yaphank.” It also included the song “Mandy” which later was sung and danced to by the cast of another film which featured Berlin’s music – “White Christmas” (1954). The most popular song of the revue was “Oh How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning.” The song cleverly used humor to describe every soldier’s aggravation of hearing the bugler call at five in the morning. Throughout the song, the unnamed soldier first describes how he would like to kill the bugler and finally resolve to one day being the bugler himself.
By the time WWII started, Berlin was ineligible to serve because of his age, but he was compelled to entertain his fellow men who served their country just as he had. Berlin renamed “Yip Yip Yaphank” to “This Is The Army” and opened it on Broadway in his own theater, “The Music Box.” The entire cast was made up of 350 servicemen. and it was so successful on Broadway that it toured the United States and to other countries. All of the proceeds went to the Army. It was the first show ever by the US Army Show; that show still exists today as an outlet for men and women of the armed services for entertaining their fellow comrades.
Twenty-five years later, the successful revue was made into a film titled, “This Is The Army Now” (1943) which starred George Murphy, Joan Leslie and Ronald Reagan. Amongst the film’s musical performances, singer Kate Smith, who was the first to sing Berlin’s “God Bless America” on a radio broadcast, sang the song once more. Berlin himself also made an appearance in the film by singing “Oh How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning.” Berlin did not take one dime from the film’s profits–all of it was donated to the Army.
Despite Berlin insisting that he never actively looked for inspiration, life had a way of making its way into Berlin’s work.