Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
May 11
Did You Guess?
Can You Guess?
1894 - Choreographer Martha Graham was born.

1916 - Death of  composer Max Reger.

1956 - First performance of Sir Arthur Bliss's Violin Concerto in London.

1956 - Elvis Presley entered British pop charts for the first time with Heartbreak Hotel.

1963 - Beatles album Please Please Me went to the top of UK charts.  It stayed there for 30 weeks.

1970 - The triple album Woodstock was released.  It went gold in 2 weeks.

1989 - Roy Orbison was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

1979 - Bluegrass legend Lester Flatt died.

1984 - Reggae star Bob Marley died.
Irving Berlin was born Israel Baline on May 11, 1898 in Russia.  His father, a cantor, moved the family to New York in 1893. 

Shortly after his father died, when Irving was just 13, Irving began earning a living by waiting tables and singing in cafés.  In 1907 he got his first songwriting credit,
Marie From Sunny Italy (linked from, and changed his name to Irving Berlin.
Irving Berlin
By 1909 he was writing his own lyrics and tunes, and by 1911 Berlin had his first hit, Alexander's Rag Time Band. (linked from

(Aside:  I had never seen prior to researching this article.  It is a great resource for songs from the late 1800's and early 1900's.)

Berlin never learned to play the piano properly.  He carried an instrument called a "
transposing piano" with him that let him change keys of a song by pushing a lever.  He did not read music, and only used the black keys on a conventional piano.

He wrote more than 1500 songs during his lifetime.  In 1958 Berlin was asked which of his songs were his favorites.  He listed Alexander's Ragtime Band, A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody, Always, Blue Skies, Easter Parade, How Deep Is The Ocean, Oh! How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning, White Christmas, God Bless America and There's No Business Like Show Business.  Berlin was active on the  Broadway musical scene, credits include Annie Get Your Gun.

Irving Berlin was a co-founder of the
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), founder of his own music publishing company (Irving Berlin, Inc.), and, with producer Sam Harris, built his own Broadway Theatre, the Music Box.  Berlin was an unabashed patriot and,  through many of his foundations, donated millions of dollars in royalties to Army Emergency Relief, the Boy and Girl Scouts and other organizations.

Berlin died in 1989 at age 101.
What Else
Irving Berlin at
A Fiddler's Guide to Waltzes, Airs and Haunting Melodies (Fiddle) - sheet music at A Fiddler's Guide to Waltzes, Airs and Haunting Melodies (Fiddle) Homespun Tapes (Instructional). DVD (Digital Video Disk). Size 5.3x7.5 inches. Published by Homespun. (641729)
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Irving Berlin: Irving Berlin Fake Book - C Edition - sheet music at Irving Berlin: Irving Berlin Fake Book - C Edition Composed by Irving Berlin. For voice and C instrument. Format: fake book (spiral bound). With vocal melody, lyrics and chord names. Standards and Vocal Standards. Series: Hal Leonard Fake Books. 183 pages. 9x12 inches. Published by Hal Leonard. (HL.240043)
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With Berlin's composition  Alexander's Rag Time Band being his first big hit, it is just fitting that we talk about another composer of rags.  The composer of The Entertainer was a popular composer, in addition to rags, who also wrote an opera.  Can You Guess who that composer is? 

Go to the Bottom of the Page for the Answer
Scott Joplin was a popular composer of rag time music.

Did you see the c
olor clues?
Great Scott: Joplin's Ragtime String Quartets: The Zinn String Quartet - sheet music at
Great Scott: Joplin's Rag...
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