"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

"Always" by Irving Berlin: A Wonderful Love Story

Irving Berlin and his wife Ellen (1926)
Today I had the pleasure of listening to Douglas Newell, director of the Enid Symphony Orchestra, and his wife speak and sing at the Enid Rotary Club. Doug told a fascinating story about  Irving Berlin .

Many of us know the composer Irving Berlin for his famous compositions like God Bless America or White Christmas. But there is a lesser-known song that Berlin composed in 1926 called Always. The back story of the composition of that song is what Doug Newell shared at Rotary.

It seems that Berlin's first wife died of typhoid after contracting the disease on their honeymoon. Berlin remained a widower until he fell in love with a young heiress named Ellin Mackay, the daughter of Clarence Mackay, who was the prominent head of the Postal Telegraph Cable Company. Because Berlin was a pauper musician and Ellin a very prominent socialite, their lives were followed in every possible detail by the press, which found the romance of the poor immigrant from the Lower East Side and the young heiress a good story.

Ellin's father opposed the match from the start. He went so far as to send his daughter off to Europe to find other suitors and "to forget Mr. Berlin." However, Irving Berlin continued to woo Ellin. He eventually won her heart

Ellin's father vowed that their marriage "would only happen 'over my dead body.'" There was no way his prosperous daughter would ever be married to this "poor pauper of a musician." 

Irving and Ellin chose to elope. 

On the morning of their wedding, Irving Berlin wrote the song Always. He put the sheet of music and lyrics in a gift box which he handed to his soon-to-be wife, with a note that said, "All the royalties of this song will be yours."

The words of the song are as follows:

Everything went wrong,
And the whole day long
I'd feel so blue.
For the longest while
I'd forget to smile,
Then I met you.
Now that my blue days have passed,
Now that I've found you at last -

I'll be loving you always
With a love that's true always.
When the things you've planned
Need a helping hand,
I will understand always.

Always.

Days may not be fair always,
That's when I'll be there always.
Not for just an hour,
Not for just a day,
Not for just a year,
But always.

I'll be loving you, oh always
With a love that's true always.
When the things you've planned
Need a helping hand,
I will understand always.

Always.

Days may not be fair always,
That's when I'll be there always.
Not for just an hour,
Not for just a day,
Not for just a year,
But always.

Not for just an hour,
Not for just a day,
Not for just a year,
But always.

By the time of Ellin Berlin's death, she had earned millions from the royalties of Always.

Douglas Newell said that as a boy he would often listen to his father sing this song to his mother on their way home from church on Sunday nights in South Carolina.  It forever made an impression on him.

What a great story. 

And what a great song. 

11 comments:

RRR said...

My wife and I have known each other since were 9 years old. We married at 18 and will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary August 19th this year. From the time we were dating in our teens, we sang this song to each other all the time, but I've never heard this story of its origin. I'll tell her and we'll probably sing it to each other again, but this time it will be even more special. Thanks, Wade.

Christiane said...

Hi RRR,
what a wonderful comment!

WADE, thanks for the background on that lovely song with the beautiful lyrics

Pege' said...

https://youtu.be/eLh-m1Z_feY OH FRANKY!! I was familira with this song because my mother used to sing it, but not the story. Thanks Wade.

Wade Burleson said...

RRR,

I echo Christiane - what a great story!

Wade Burleson said...

You are welcome, Pege!

Aussie John said...

Wade,

Special to my wife and I! RRR,so you're another old timer!! We were married 56 years ago and I used to sing the song to my wife, still sing the song, occasionally!

Bob Cleveland said...

Thanks so much for this post, Wade.

This song was, in fact, the song we selected to be played at our wedding, during the seating of our mothers. It was that special then, and is still that special, 58 years later.

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Rex Ray said...

Great Post

Great Song

Great Comments

Anonymous said...

Great post and great song.

Berlin is America's song writer.

"Always" is a great song.

I also like "What'll I Do?", which Berlin wrote after the passing of his mother.

Here's an interesting family tidbit. My grandmother's childhood friend, with whom she supposedly had her first "date" (I think it was more of a friend thing, however) was Hoagy Carmichael.

They stayed in touch until Carmichael passed away. My mother said Carmichael would call the house every so often (maybe annually) to check on my grandmother. My mother spoke to him on occasion.

Louis

Unknown said...

Great post and great song.


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