Berlin on the brain — that’s what I have! I’ve been reading about his life and work. Oh, the songs he wrote! Take the lyrics and music for Annie Get Your Gun: Irving wrote them all. “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “The Girl that I Marry” — all these are his witty and winsome creations.
Irving wasn’t the kind of guy who’d dash off a song. He wrote hundreds of them — and most of the time, it was tough sledding. He believed he succeeded, not because of any talent he had, but because he was persistent and consistent in his work habits.
But while he was incredibly disciplined in how he worked, Irving gave free rein to his imagination when it came to what he wrote. When someone asked whether he had ever studied lyric writing, here’s what he said:
“I never have, because if I don’t know them I do not have to observe any rules and can do as I like, which is much better for me than if I allowed myself to be governed by the rules of versification. In following my own method I can make my jingles fit my music or vice versa with no qualms as to their correctness. Usually I compose my tunes and then fit words to them, though sometimes it’s the other way about.”
What a relaxed, unfettered attitude our boy Irving has towards his work! He developed his own way of working and it worked for him, so he stuck with it. If he were here right now, I’m sure that Irving would encourage you to write “your own song:” to come up with a work style that suits you and not worry about anyone else’s “rules of the road.” Whatever works for you will work for you if you work it hard enough — that’s Irving’s message to us. He should know! So take a tip from a savvy tunester and write “your song.”