Friday, May 12, 2006

Irving Berlin

Before I go to bed, a quick word about Irving Berlin. It was the anniversary of his birth today (I would say 'birthday', but that makes it sound like he's still alive).

He was one of my first inspirations as a songwriter. I credit him with writing the first pop song - 'Alexander's Ragtime Band' - and he wrote hundreds and hundreds more, including some of the most successful songs of all time.

But you know what? The man could only play the piano on the black notes. That's right - he taught himself to play, but only the black notes. Isn't that amazing? Just shows you don't need academic music tuition or even great technical ability on an instrument to be a remarkable songwriter.

In fact, when he was successful, Irving Berlin had a special piano made. It had a lever on it to shift all of the hammers inside the piano onto different strings, so he could carry on playing the same black notes, but be playing in different keys, to suit different singers. The world's first transposing piano.

So there you go. Let's make it Irving Berlin Day. I'm going to hum myself to sleep with 'Blue Skies'.

1 comment:

Joe said...

PS. I recommend this: