Oregon Movies, A to Z

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If You Believe/Johnnie Ray

December 24th, 2008 by Anne Richardson · No Comments · 1950's, Oregon actor, Oregon musician, Oregon singer, Videos

Johnnie Ray was hand selected by Irving Berlin, the composer of all the songs in There’s No Business Like Show Business, to sing If You Believe in that movie.

It is possible Berlin saw a match between the material and Ray’s emotional, exuberant stage persona. Both artists made sophisticated use of cross racial musical influences which we see here in Johnnie Ray’s “call and response” performance of Berlin’s pseudo gospel stomp.

Ray’s career breakthough happened at the Detroit  black and tan (black neighborhood, white owner) nightclub Flame Showbar, where he was one of the only white performers, if not the only one. Similarly, Berlin’s career breakthrough happened when he wrote Alexander’s Ragtime Band, a song about the excitement generated when blackface minstrels (Alexander was a stage name traditionally used by minstrels) came to town.

Here’s Billy Murray’s version of Alexander’s Ragtime Band, a monster hit in 1911.

What! You don’t know who Billy Murray is?

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