When I Lost You

"When I Lost You" is a song with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. It was written in 1912 after his wife of five months, the former Dorothy Goetz, died of typhoid fever. In it he poured out the grief of his loss; it was the only song that he ever admitted had such a connection to his own life.[1] The song, a ballad, was unlike any of Berlin's previous songs, which were upbeat tunes written to take advantage of the dance craze. The song is in a slow waltz tempo. It became Berlin's first hit ballad.[2]

When I Lost You
Ballad by Irving Berlin
When I Lost You 1.jpeg
Cover page to the sheet music.
PublisherWaterson, Berlin & Snyder, Inc.

Berlin had published 130 songs by this point, none of which previously had revealed his ability to write with moving sentiment about his own personal pain.[3]


Berlin's initial attempts to resume songwriting after his wife's death were unsuccessful.[1] After accepting an invitation to visit Europe with Dorothy's brother Ray Goetz, Berlin composed "When I Lost You".[1] Following the trip, Berlin successfully returned to songwriting by writing about his wife's death, rather than attempting to avoid it.[1]

The birds ceased their song
Right turned to wrong
Sweetheart when I lost you
A day turned to years
The world seemed in tears
Sweetheart when I lost you.[4]


Berlin did not make promotional appearances for the song during its first year of release, but the circumstances of his brief and tragic marriage were already common knowledge.[1] The following year he performed the song in London.[1]

Notable recordingsEdit

Early popular recordings of the song in 1913 were by Henry Burr and by Manuel Romain.[5]

Others to record the song include:


  1. ^ a b c d e f Bergreen, Laurence (1996). As Thousands Cheer: The Life of Irving Berlin. Da Capo Press. pp. 81–85. ISBN 9780786752522. Retrieved 2008-10-04.
  2. ^ Furia, Philip (1990). The Poets of Tin Pan Alley:A History of America's Great Lyricists. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 51–52. ISBN 0-19-506408-9.
  3. ^ Wilder, Alec (1990). American Popular Song: The Great Innovators 1900-1950. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 96. ISBN 0-19-501445-6.
  4. ^ ""When I Lost You" (sheet music p.1)". Waterson, Berlin & Snyder. Retrieved 2008-10-04.
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 606. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  6. ^ "Columbia D suffix discography". 78discography.
  7. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  8. ^ "Jim Reeves – Moonlight And Roses". Discogs. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  9. ^ "Kay Starr – Losers, Weepers". Discogs. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  10. ^ "The Mills Brothers – The Mills Brothers In Hi-Fi: Barbershop Ballads". Discogs. Retrieved July 29, 2017.