James Kaplan on Irving Berlin

FEB 05, 2020 | 6:30 PM TO 8:00 PM

James Kaplan on Irving Berlin, with Gary Giddins



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue


1201: Elebash Recital Hall


February 05, 2020: 6:30 PM-8:00 PM






Leon Levy Center for Biography



Irving Berlin (1888–1989) has been called—by George Gershwin, among others—the greatest songwriter of the golden age of the American popular song. “Berlin has no place in American music,” legendary composer Jerome Kern wrote; “he is American music.” In a career that spanned an astonishing nine decades, Berlin wrote some fifteen hundred tunes, including “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “God Bless America,” and “White Christmas.” From ragtime to the rock era, Berlin’s work has endured in the very fiber of American national identity.
Exploring the interplay of Berlin’s life with the life of New York City, noted biographer James Kaplan offers a visceral narrative of Berlin as self‑made man and witty, wily, tough Jewish immigrant. This fast‑paced, musically opinionated biography uncovers Berlin’s unique brilliance as a composer of music and lyrics. Masterfully written and psychologically penetrating, Kaplan’s book underscores Berlin’s continued relevance in American popular culture.

James Kaplan is the author of Sinatra: The Chairman (2015); Frank: The Voice (2010) (selected by The New York Times as one of her Top 10 Books of 2010); Two Guys from VeronaA Novel of Suburbia (1999), a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; and The Airport: Terminal NightsRunway Days at John F. Kennedy International (1994); and Pearl's Progress (1989), among other works. 

Former Executive Director of the Leon Levy Center, Gary Giddins received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Visions of Jazz: the First Century. His other books include Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams—The Early Years, 1903–1940, which won the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award and the ARSC Award for Excellence in Historical Sound Research; Weatherbird: Jazz at the Dawn of Its Second CenturyFaces in the Crowd; Natural Selection; and biographies of Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker.