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The Melody Lingers On: Doin' The Business

The great Irving Berlin could write a song almost as fast as it could be sung. Tony Thornton tells how Berlin was called in at short notice to write the music for the show Annie Get Your Gun. He wrote 19 numbers in a few weekends - glorious show-stopping songs that still set feet to tapping and hands to clapping.

Tony writes from a deep love of the music produced in the golden age of song writing. Read more of his gloriously tuneful articles by clicking on The Melody Lingers On in the menu on the right-hand side of this page.

Irving Berlin could write a song faster than any one else around.
In 1945, Rogers and Hammerstein had branched out into producing and had lined up Jerome Kern to write the music for their show Annie Get Your Gun.

Sadly, Jerome Kern died unexpectedly so they needed someone to step in at short notice. The only man who could do it was Irving Berlin.

He wrote all 19 numbers during a few weekends including: Doin’ A What Comes Naturally, You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun, The Girl That I Marry and My Defences Are Down. At a meeting he presented them for approval to R&H who began to check them out – a situation that always made Irving Berlin watch keenly for the initial reaction to the first hearing.

When the session was over it was noted that they needed one more song – to highlight the rivalry between Ethel Merman and her co-star. When Irving Berlin reached his hotel he rang back to say he had written the extra song during the 10-minute taxi-drive – Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better.

When they resumed the following day the producers found one song missing. During the busy time of going through the music, Irving Berlin had wrongly interpreted a lack of interest to one particular song and had left it out. When quizzed he said, “I threw it away, I didn’t think you liked it.”

In the film version of Annie Get Your Gun starring Betty Hutton and Howard Keel, the song provided one of the greatest ending scenes of all time, with the horse-mounted stars leading the rodeo cast. It was the biggest hit of the film and went on to become a show business anthem.

The song captured this spirit so well that it is now used as the closing number for thousands of musicals performed every year the world over.

Even our local Brampton Players used it, in a variety show that I took part in a few years ago, and when I was belting out the last few lines along with the rest of the cast, I thought how, 50 years earlier, Irving Berlin had thrown it in the bin.

The song is of course, There’s No Business Like Show Business.


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