Thursday, February 02, 2006

Berlin, né Baline

An idea for a parody of Cole Porter’s Begin the Beguine came to me a couple of weeks ago, the subject being Oedipus Rex. That one went nowhere fast. But by a free association of ideas cryptic even to me, the subject evolved into Irving Berlin. This time, something came of it, but only after a ghastly sweat that will be evident to my faithful readers as soon as they lay their eyes on the following.

The premise of the song—and here, Ron, my DAMP, suggests that we throw together a sort of a verse to set the whole thing up—is that Irving Berlin was born Israel Baline; but, when his first song was published in 1907, a printer’s error credited the music to one I. Berlin. Israel took the name, ran with it, and never looked back. The theme I was hoping to convey was that, when one has a mission in life, don't sweat the small stuff, like a misspelled name; but alas! for the fetters of rhyme and rhythm—that theme hasn't come across very well in the following. In fact, I’m dashed if I can figure out what half the lines mean, and I wrote the blasted thing.

Still, here it is, in the roughest of drafts (and if you don’t know the original song all the way through, shame on you! Go and learn it):

Irving Berlin was “Baline,”
Till somebody’s typographical error.
But did Irving gripe? Or tremble in terror?
Or write to The Times? Or erupt in spleen?

He said, “When in Rome, go with the flow,”
And then he went home and started composing;
And, when he was done, signed it, in closing,
Irving Berlin—not Baline.

The fortunes of war reward the deserving,
Especially when something’s at stake.
A misspelled name we might have found unnerving;
Berlin was unswerving—Irving was jake.

The moral’s as clear as aquamarine:
When someone drives up in a hearse, make certain you’re busy;
Don’t make a wee glitch any worse by having a tizzy
And causing one hell of a scene.

Is it Irving Berlin–or Baline?
Is his handle the former name, or still the latter?
If his music remains the same, what does it matter
Whether Berlin is Baline?

By becoming Berlin, did Baline show the way:
Always dare to drink deep, and risk delirium tremens.
So if Life, now and then (tsk, tsk!), offers you lemons,
Simply make lemonade—and mix it with gin;
Make a Berlin from Baline.
Make like Berlin-slash-Baline!

Lyric © 2006 Nathaniel DesH. Petrikov


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