“Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All That Bites You”

5 08 2007

You don’t need a ticket to hum along with me here in the critic’s circle. 🙂

“A patriotic song is an emotion and you must not embarrass an audience with it, or they will hate your guts.”
–Irving Berlin

Still thinking about this as it connects to creative truth and literal lies.
Maybe a better anthem than God Bless America for Daryl’s letter-writer, would be “Getting to Know You” from The King and I [a sympathetic western musical about the middle east– well, the East anyway — before 20th century terrorism, imagine!]

By birth Irving Berlin shared neither god nor country with patriotic Christian Americans. No, he was born Jewish and Russian — personal background seldom endearing to the religious right — his family soon fleeing the latter because of the former. He had only two years of formal schooling (maybe a plus for unschoolers but what about Christian school-at-homers?) before going to work, as a singing waiter and struggling songwriter (who could neither read nor write musical notation.) No worry of that connecting to “gay” sins, though, because he was also husband and father — he honeymooned in CUBA with his first wife, a bad idea that killed her. He then married a Catholic whose prominent family disapproved of their mixed-faith match.

No lie, not fiction, literally a true story. So for us as his audience, what truth lies in that? What art came of his history?

Well, in addition to his lifelong support for our military, he was honored in 1944 by the National Conference of Christians and Jews for “advancing the aims of the conference to eliminate religious and racial conflict.”

I can support THAT as truly American, even divine! Surely modern gods smile on eliminating religious and racial conflict — but can the letter-writer, I wonder?

For those too young or too narrowly schooled to understand religion as race and culture as warfare, the movie to see is Gregory Peck in “Gentleman’s Agreement.”


This movie hit Favorite Daughter like a ton of bricks. Her essay to see is “Obama, Superman, the F-words and Bigotry.”

“Sure, a man at a dinner table told a story – and the nice people didn’t laugh. They even despised him, sure. But they let it pass,” Dave says. “If you don’t stop with that joke, where do you stop?”

From Reel.com:

On the audio commentary for the new Gentleman’s Agreement DVD, actress June Havoc makes a case for the 1947 film’s continuing relevance, pointing out that discrimination and prejudice are still a part of the American landscape. She has a point, for while this genteel melodrama has dated badly and suffers under the weight of its own good intentions, it remains an important work, both to film scholarship and as one of the first movies to deal frankly with anti-Semitism.

But wait. Oh, dear. Even “Getting to Know You” is little help to Daryl’s Christian-centric letter writer — Richard Rodgers was Jewish too.



6 responses

5 08 2007

Good Christian blogging on this topic, sharing a home sweet home recipe that lets us eat Berlin’s “blessed” example, and have our Harry Potter too. 😉

(A cheerful snook-cocking to Andrea for the link.)

7 08 2007

Garrison Keillor reviewed an upcoming book on American music in the subscriber-select NYT July 22:

“Like most of his colleagues, only a little more so, Irving always needed someone else to tell him when he was good. Witness the famous instance when he almost discarded that most palpable of hits ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’ because his secretary didn’t like it, and perhaps more seriously, because Richard Rodgers didn’t light up when he first heard it.

A more confident man might have realized that Richard Rodgers never lit up over anything and that he was hearing this new song under the worst possible conditions: Irving was playing it himself.

And Irving’s pianism was so primitive that Hoagy Carmichael once said that it had given him the heart to go on, on the grounds that ‘if the best in the business is that bad, there’s hope for all of us.’ ” (Berlin also discarded “How Deep Is the Ocean” for a while.)

And beyond music is the metaphor imo, the real lesson for us all that has nothing to do with flagwaving and singing the standards as militant resistance to bright young talents and the inevitable “evolution” they bring:

“Never apologize for a song that sells a million copies,” Berlin said, which covers the Beatles very nicely, and Paul Simon and Springsteen, and a hundred others, and so does Jerome Kern’s advice: “Stay uncommercial. There’s a lot of money in it.”

Meaning: throw away the formula, break the mold, be surprising. By the early ’50s, pop music was run by hacks, and bright young talents walked in and drove them away.

With a Little Help From Irving, Cole, and a Crew of About Fifty.
By Wilfrid Sheed.

22 08 2007
Death to the SAT? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] p.s. – and if you can’t manage that level of non-personal erudition, at least use your higher order thinking skills in your PERSONAL erudition!! Example (I hope it’s not classist to suggest) here. […]

1 10 2007
God Bless America: School Fight Song for Our Times « Cocking A Snook!

[…] “God Bless America” was the “peace” song sung around a book-burning bonfire in the 1940s, reports a brand-new scholarly book, “Books On Trial: Witch Hunt In The Heartland And A Nation’s Response” by Wayne and Shirley Wiegand, an FSU information professor and his lawyer wife: They reveal how state power–with support from local media and businesses–was used to trample individuals’ civil rights during an era in which citizens were gripped by fear of foreign subversion. […]

30 09 2009
Whose Rights Ring Wronger at School? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Getting to know you, getting to know all that bites you […]

19 11 2010
Harry Potter: We Better Believe It’s Real « Cocking A Snook!

[…] moms dancing like bears animated by corporate control for America’s “votes” are dangerous only if we believeit is real. Harry Potter is dangerous only if we don’t […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: