Say It with Music
Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra
Writer(s): Irving Berlin (see lyrics here)
First Charted: November 21, 1921
Peak: 15 US, 12 GA, 13 SM (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
Irving Berlin’s “Say It with Music” originated in the 1921 Music Box Revue. The “exquisitely beautiful theater” TY2 opened that year on Broadway and both it and the revues that ran from 1921 to 1925 were products of Irving Berlin. TY2
It was performed originally as a duet by Wilda Bennett and Joe Santley and got a lukewarm reception. Part of the reason may have been the simple staging because Berlin wanted the focus to be on the song itself, “but the audience, apparently, wanted spectacle.” TY2 However, New York Times critic Alexander Woollcott said of the production that Berlin “has written only one real song. It is called ‘Say It with Music,’ and by February you will have heard it so often that you will gladly shoot…any one who so much as hums it in your hearing.’” TY2
Indeed, the song about what music meant to Berlin did eventually connect with his audience, showing how much “music is a language lovers understand.” SM It even became the theme song for thre rest of the Music Box revues. SM It also became the theme song for a BBC radio program called The Music Goes Round, which ran for 36 years until Desmond Carrington retired at the age of 90. SF
The biggest chart success for the song was the instrumental version by Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra. Other chart versions were by Ben Selvin (#6, 1921), John Steel (#11, 1922), and the Columbians (#12, 1922). PM Ethel Merman performed the song for the 1938 movie Alexander’s Ragtime Band. It has also been performed by Pat Boone, Dick Haymes & Carmen Cavallaro, and Jack Payne. It was the signature song for Payne and it was his version played on the final broadcast of The Music Goes Round. SF
First posted 1/28/2023.