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A Centennial Tribute


"Alexander's Ragtime Band"

by Roger Hall

"Alexander's Ragtime Band" was published in 1911 and introduced by Emma Carus. It became Irving Berlin's first big hit, selling a million copies of sheet music in its first three months! Even though the word "ragtime" is in the title, it is not a traditional ragtime song but instead more of a syncopated march.

In their book, America's Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood, and Tin Pan Alley, Philip Furia and Michael Lasser, quote Irving Berlin saying,

My struggles didn't actually begin until after I'd written "Alexander's Ragtime Band." It's been a struggle ever since to keep success going.

According to Wikipedia, this song remained popular for many years and was recorded by various singers, including Bessie Smith's classic version from 1927, Louis Armstong in 1937, Johnny Mercer in 1945, and Ray Charles in 1959.

In 1938, the song was used as the title for a popular 20th Century-Fox movie made up entirely of Irving Berlin songs. The film received 6 Oscar nominations and Alfred Newman received an Oscar for Best Score Adaptation of Berlin's songs. Berlin's song, "Now It Can Be Told" was one of the Oscar nominated songs for 1938. Another nomination was especially important to the man who wrote the songs -- Irving Berlin was also nominated for Best Original Story. It was the first time a songwriter was also nominated for the film's story.

78 record label of "Alexander's Ragtime Band"
sung by The Boswell Sisters


As a special tribute to Irving Berlin and the release of ALEXANDER'S RAGTIME BAND, a program was broadcast on CBS Radio on August 3, 1938. Among the stars who appeared on that program were: Al Jolson (the MC), Eddie Cantor, Sophie Tucker, Ben Bernie, Ethel Merman, Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, Rudy Vallee and His Orchestra, Connie Boswell, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, Paul Whiteman, Tyrone Power, and Irving Berlin himself.










An LP recording of this rare radio broadcast, "A Tribute to Irving Berlin," is in the archives of the American Music Recordings Archive and a CDR is available for a copying fee.

The movie musical has been restored on this recommended DVD...





Irving Berlin with Alice Faye, Tyrone Power, and Don Ameche


This Berlin hit song is listed at

A Century of American Songs (1861-1961)


Centennial Concert:

"Alexander's Ragtime Band" at 100

The classic Berlin song was published on March 18, 1911, and American Classics honored it one hundred years later to the day -
featuring stars of Boston's musical theatre community!

Friday March 18, 2011, 7:30pm
Pickman Concert Hall
Longy School of Music
27 Garden Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts



Read more about "Alexander's Ragtime Band"
at this recommended site:



Songwriter Tributes on AMP

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Johnny Mercer in Hollywood


"I Hear Music"
A Centennial Tribute To Frank Loesser


"The Last Roundup" -- A Tribute To Billy Hill


"Mr. Lucky" - Memories Of Henry Mancini

"River Of No Return" -- Ken Darby






AMP Links

100 Essential Songs (1861-1961)

50 Song Hits 1956

50 Song Hits 1957

50 Song Hits 1958

50 Song Hits 1959

50 Song Hits 1960

50 Song Hits 1961

100 essential film scores

Popular Songwriters and The Great American Songbook

Bravo, Bing! A Tribute to Bing Crosby

Sensational Sinatra! A Remembrance of Frank Sinatra


National Carry A Tune Week

(October 2 - 8, 2011)

Read more here


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