“Come on and hear!”

“Alexander’s Ragtime Band” sheet music

The fireworks flashed over the National Mall as the National Symphony Orchestra struck up the beginning chords of Irving Berlin’s “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” during the July 4th concert in Washington, D.C. This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the piece’s debut.

In Say it with Music: The Story of Irving Berlin (a Morgan Reynolds book), author Nancy Furstinger writes, “Berlin at first released the melody without lyrics, but it flopped when it debuted in a cabaret. Discouraged, Berlin stashed it in his trunk. He later pulled it back out and added lyrics because, as a newly elected Friars’ Club member, he was supposed to give a speech. Berlin decided to sing his speech, and the revised ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ was the result. It became a hit and soon it could be heard everywhere across America.”

Berlin once said, “I wrote it without words as a two-step and it was a dead failure. Six months later, I wrote words to it… When the lyrics were added later, it became alive. People sang it and it became a sensation. For music to live, it must be sung.”

Lyrics to “Alexander’s Ragtime Band

VERSE 1:
Oh, ma hon-ey, oh, ma hon-ey, bet-ter hur-ry and let’s me-an-der
Ain’t you go-in’? Ain’t you go-in’? To the lea-der-man, rag-ged me-ter man?
Oh, ma hon-ey, oh, ma hon-ey, Let me take you to Al-ex-an-der’s
Grand stand brass band, ain’t you com-in’ a-long?
CHORUS:
Come on and hear! Come on and hear! Al-ex-an-der’s rag-time band!
Come on and hear! Come on and hear! It’s the best band in the land!
They can play a bu-gle call like you nev-er heard be-fore
So nat-u-ral that you want to go to war
That’s just the best-est band what am, oh, ma hon-ey lamb
Come on a-long, come on a-long, let me take you by the hand
Up to the man, up to the man, who’s the lead-er of the band
And if you care to hear the Swa-nee Riv-er played in rag-time
Come on and hear, come on and hear,
Al-ex-an-der’s Rag-Time Band.
VERSE 2:
Oh, ma hon-ey, oh, ma hon-ey, there’s a fid-dle with notes that scree-ches,
Like a chick-en, like a chick-en, and the clar-i-net is a col-ored pet
Come and list-en, come and list-en, to a class-i-cal band what’s pea-ches
Come now, some-how, bet-ter hur-ry a-long!
CHORUS:
Come on and hear! Come on and hear! Al-ex-an-der’s rag-time band!
Come on and hear! Come on and hear! It’s the best band in the land!
They can play a bu-gle call like you nev-er heard be-fore
So nat-u-ral that you want to go to war
That’s just the best-est band what am, oh, ma hon-ey lamb
Come on a-long, come on a-long, let me take you by the hand
Up to the man, up to the man, who’s the lead-er of the band
And if you care to hear the Swa-nee Riv-er played in rag-time
Come on and hear, come on and hear,
Al-ex-an-der’s Rag-Time Band

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

For more information about Irving Berlin, check out Say It with Music: The Story of  Irving Berlin by Nancy Furstinger (ISBN 9781931798129) 

Published in: on July 6, 2011 at 1:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,