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Looking Back Dec. 3

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or mary.braswell@albanyherald.com.

They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere! Christmas songs are filling the air on radio, at home, on television, at church, in stores and in hearts of those like myself that enjoy nothing more than a quality rendition of “Jingle Bells.” Here is a bit of musical fun for the season.

Can you unscramble the titles to the following Christmas tunes (no punctuation included)? I will give you the first one.

  1. nit oel stw (Let It Snow)

  2. bsiuarclts emh

  3. gseeihir dl

  4. wtts schemiirah

  5. stiolt yerrume dlm

  6. el egbjllins

  7. sh erstrco maiet

  8. beilv ssrell

  9. lhty hi ongo

  10. ntieshtn gil

  11. yhjetor dw lt oo

  12. natl ssach cmcre aeeus

  13. tabab ayns

  14. mt uico altr e pancmgh iadni

  15. te ltnt ni gi nuo thlmooae

  16. wmuk oyn iod yrad

  17. wcih htasi lt hdis

  18. thooem rys nftwans

  19. ee hgsir netwk

  20. eorndn niwtdrwale

White Christmas

• Iriving Berlin was born Israel Berlin on May 11, 1888 as one of eight children in what is now Byelorussia.

• The family came to New York City in 1893.

• Three years after arriving in America, Berlin’s father died. Not long afterwards, the youngster ran away from home and became one of many street urchins.

• Berlin delivered newspapers and sang in cafes around the city-likely for just a few pennies.

• In 1906, Berlin landed a job in the fashionable Pelham Cafe. He took this opportunity to teach himself how to play the piano. Since he could not read music, he played only the black keys.

• In 1907, Berlin wrote his first song, “Marie from Sunny Italy.” This tune would be the first of what became over 1,000 published songs.

• As a result of a drunken editor mixing up the letters of his first name, Israel became Irving and remained so throughout his life.

• In 1911, Berlin hit the big time with “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”

• Berlin married his sweetheart, Dorothy Goetz, and the couple went off to Cuba for a romantic honeymoon. The young bride became seriously ill with typhoid and died upon their return to New York.

• Berlin threw himself into his work, immortalizing his grief in “When I Lost You.”

• During WWI, Berlin volunteered with the Army and wrote numerous songs to uplift the morale of the soldiers.

• The country’s involvement in WWII once again stirred Berlin’s great love of country. He took a song written during WWI, gave it a makeover and published it as “God Bless America.”

• Accounts vary as to when Berlin wrote the song “White Christmas.” One story is that he wrote it in 1940, pool side at the Biltmore in Phoenix. The story goes that he told his secretary, “Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written - heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!”

• Bing Crosby introduced “White Christmas” on the radio show “The Kraft Music Hall” on Christmas 1941. If it was recorded, it was not saved.

• The official recording of “White Christmas” took place on May 29, 1942 at Decca Studios in NYC with Crosby accompanied by the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers.

• Whatever the origin, Berlin used “White Christmas” when he wrote the score for the box office hit “Holiday Inn” which was released in the summer of 1942.

• The recording heard today is not the original. The master was damaged due to frequent use and Crosby re-recorded the song on March 18, 1947. The same musicians and singers were used.

• Bing Crosby’s holiday collection “Merry Christmas” was first released as a long-playing record in 1949. It has never been out-of-print.

• The first Guinness Book of World Records, published in 1955, listed “White Christmas” as the world’s best-selling single, a distinction still held more than half a century later.

• “White Christmas” was broadcast on the radio on April 30, 1975, as a secret, pre-arranged signal precipitating the U.S. evacuation of Saigon.

• In 2002, the original 1942 version was one of 50 historically significant recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.

• Many artists have recorded this most popular of Irving Berlin songs. Here are just a few:

1942 - Frank Sinatra

1947 - Perry Como

1949 - Ernest Tubb

1950 - Eddie Arnold

1954 - The Drifters

1957 - Elvis Presley

1958 - Johnny Mathis

1961 - Mitch Miller

1963 - Andy Williams, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

1965 - The Supremes, Bob Marley

1968 - Otis Redding

1971 - The Partridge Family

1973 - Merle Haggard

1978 - The Carpenters

1984 - Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton

1989 - New Kids on the Block

1992 - Garth Brooks

1996 - The Bellamy Brothers

1998 - Chicago

2004 - Dionne Warwick, LeAnn Rimes

2008 - Neil Sedaka, Rascal Flatts

2011 - Jackie Evancho, Lady Gaga