• Bios Home
Berlin, Irving
Berlin, Irving

With a life that spanned more than 100 years and a catalogue that boasted over 1000 songs, Irving Berlin epitomized Jerome Kern's famous maxim that "Irving Berlin has no place in American music -- he is American music."

Irving Berlin was born Israel Beilin on May 11, 1888. One of eight children, his exact place of birth is unknown, although his family had been living in Tolochin, Byelorussia, when they immigrated to New York in 1893. When his father died, Berlin, just turned 13, took to the streets in various odd jobs, working as a busker singing for pennies, then as a singing waiter in a Chinatown Cafe. In 1907 he published his first song, "Marie from Sunny Italy," and by 1911 he had his first major international hit — "Alexander's Ragtime Band."

Over the next five decades, Irving Berlin produced an outpouring of ballads, dance numbers, novelty tunes and love songs that defined American popular song for much of the century. A sampling of just some of the Irving Berlin standards includes "How Deep Is The Ocean," "Blue Skies," "White Christmas," "Always," "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better," "There's No Business Like Show Business," "Cheek To Cheek," "Puttin' On The Ritz," "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody," "Heat Wave," "Oh! How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning," "Easter Parade" and "Let's Face The Music And Dance." In a class by itself is his beloved paean to his beloved country, "God Bless America."

He was equally at home writing for Broadway and Hollywood. He wrote seventeen complete scores for Broadway musicals and revues, and contributed material to six more. Among the shows featuring all-Berlin scores were THE COCOANUTS, AS THOUSANDS CHEER, LOUISIANA PURCHASE, THIS IS THE ARMY, MISS LIBERTY, MR. PRESIDENT, CALL ME MADAM and the phenomenally successful ANNIE GET YOUR GUN.  Recent musicals culled from his screen work include IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS (Broadway, across the USA, Canada and Great Britain), and TOP HAT, currently in its 2nd year in London's West End and winner of the 2013 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical.

Among the Hollywood movie musical classics with scores by Irving Berlin are TOP HAT, FOLLOW THE FLEET, ON THE AVENUE, ALEXANDER'S RAGTIME BAND, HOLIDAY INN, BLUE SKIES, EASTER PARADE, WHITE CHRISTMAS and THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS. His songs have provided memorable moments in dozens of other films, from THE JAZZ SINGER (1927) to blockbusters like HOME ALONE (1991) and TITANIC (1997). Among his many awards were a special Tony Award (1963) and the Academy Award for Best Song of the Year for "White Christmas" in 1942.

An intuitive business man, Irving Berlin was a co-founder of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), founder of his own music publishing company, and with producer Sam Harris, builder of his own Broadway theatre, The Music Box. An unabashed patriot, his love for - and generosity to - his country is legendary, and through several of his foundations, including The God Bless America Fund, he donated millions of dollars in royalties to Army Emergency Relief, the Boy and Girl Scouts and other organizations. His actions were acknowledged with such accolades as the Army's Medal of Merit from President Truman in 1945; a Congressional Gold Medal for "God Bless America" and other patriotic songs from President Eisenhower in 1954; and the Freedom Medal from President Ford in 1977. In 2002, the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, named the Army Entertainment Division (AED) World Headquarters "The Irving Berlin Center" in his honor. Also that year he was commemorated on a U.S. postage stamp.

Irving Berlin's centennial in 1988 was celebrated worldwide, culminating in an all-star tribute at Carnegie Hall benefitting the Hall and ASCAP, subsequently an Emmy Award winning special on CBS, and featuring such varied luminaries of the musical world as Frank Sinatra, Leonard Bernstein, Isaac Stern, Natalie Cole and Willie Nelson.

On September 22, 1989, at the age of 101, Irving Berlin died in his sleep in his town house in New York City. A widower since his wife of 62 years, the former Ellin Mackay, had died the previous year at the age of 85, Berlin is survived by three daughters and their families.

See Also:

Mary Ellin Barrett Quotes from his Peers Berlin on Broadway Irving Berlin on Film Irving Berlin: Condensed Biography

 

Read More

Songs Associated this writer

Concerts Associated this writer

News about this writer

Last Chance To See TOP HAT
Last chance to see three times Olivier award-winning production TOP HAT at the Aldwych Theatre. Now Playing until October 26, 2013. Read More
Ted Chapin's STAGE DOOR CANTEEN CD Featured At Barnes & Noble NYC In-Store Event on April 11!
New DRG Recording Celebrates WWII-era Songs from Rodgers & Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hart and Others. Read More
Oxford University Press Releases Two New Books on Irving Berlin
On Friday April 6, Oxford University Press will release two new books on the life and work of Irving Berlin to join a growing library of volumes on America's most prolific songwriter. Read More
Irving Berlin Music Company Re-Signs with Imagem Music Group, Rodgers & Hammerstein
Relationship Dating From 1990 Continues With Global Representation of Irving Berlin Brand and Grand Rights, and On-Going Music Publishing Representation in North America Read More

Trivia about this writer

Did you know? Irving Berlin rhymed his thoughts on the creative partnership of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart: "Tuneful and tasty, schmaltzy and smart - music by Rodgers, lyrics by Hart."""
Did you know? The classic song "God Bless America"" was originally written for Irving Berlin's show YIP-YIP YAPHANK at Camp Upton."
Did you know? "White Christmas"", the most-recorded song of all time, is surprisingly brief
Did you know? The Irving Berlin classic "White Christmas"" has been recorded in over 500 versions by more than 150 artists. You can find recordings by Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Garth Brooks, Lee Ann Womack, Diana Krall, Donna Summers, Iggy Pop, Andrea Boccelli, and many more."
Did you know? According to the Guinness Book of World Records, "White Christmas"" is the most-recorded song of all time. The original 1942 recording by Bing Crosby is the best-selling record in history. The song has been translated into dozens of languages, from French and Italian to Latin and Dutch. ""White Christmas"" has even been translated to Yiddish - as ?In Vayse Nitl?. "
Did you know? Composer Jerome Kern once said of Irving Berlin, "Irving Berlin has no place in American music. He IS American music."""
December 28, 1926
In 1926, the song "Blue Skies"" is incorporated into the Ziegfeld show BETSY. It is introduced by Belle Baker. "
December 25, 1915
In 1915 was the opening of Irving Berlin's STOP! LOOK! LISTEN! at the Globe Theatre, New York. Score included "I Love a Piano"" and ""The Girl on the Magazine Cover."""
December 24, 1941
In 1941, Bing Crosby sang "White Christmas"" in its first-ever public performance on the ""Kraft Music Hall"" Radio Program
December 08, 1925
In 1925, THE COCOANUTS opened in New York.
December 08, 1914
In 1914 was the opening of WATCH YOUR STEP at the New Amsterdam Theatre, New York: Irving Berlin's first complete musical score for theatre. It included "Simple Melody (Musical Demon)."""
December 07, 1942
In 1942, one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the poet Carl Sandburg wrote, "We have learned to be a little sad and a little lonesome, without being sickly about it. This feeling is caught in the song of a thousand juke boxes and the tune whistled in streets and homes, 'I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas.' When we sing that song we don't hate anybody. . . . Away down under, this latest hit of Irving Berlin catches us where we love peace."""
November 25, 1926
The birthday of Mary Ellin Barrett, daughter of American legend Irving Berlin. An author and literary critic, Barrett wrote the book IRVING BERLIN: A DAUGHTER'S MEMOIR.
November 23, 2008
In 2008, Irving Berlin's WHITE CHRISTMAS premiered for the first time as a stage musical on Broadway at the Marquise Theatre. It played for a limited run during the holiday season, and returned to the theater for a repeat run in the winter of 2009 for a total of 53 performances.
November 10, 1943
In 1943, the stage version of Irving Berlin's THIS IS THE ARMY opened at the Palladium in London.
November 10, 1938
In 1938, Irving Berlin's song "God Bless America"" was introduced by Kate Smith on her Armistice Day radio program."
November 06, 1916
In 1916, THE CENTURY GIRL, a revue written by Irving Berlin in collaboration with Victor Herbert, opened in New York.
October 20, 1962
In 1962, MR. PRESIDENT opened at the St. James Theatre on Broadway where it ran for 265 performances.
October 18, 1949
In 1949, Irving Berlin received the Legion d'Honneur from the French government.
October 12, 1950
In 1950, Irving Berlin's CALL ME MADAM opened at the Imperial Theatre, New York.
October 01, 1942
In 1942, the national tour of THIS IS THE ARMY opened at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C.
September 30, 1933
In 1933, AS THOUSANDS CHEER opened at the Music Box Theatre, New York. The score included "Easter Parade,"" ""Heat Wave,"" and ""Suppertime."""
January 01, 1970
In 1893, little Israel Beilin (the future Irving Berlin) arrived in New York with his parents and six siblings aboard the S.S. Rhynland. His eldest brother stayed in Russia.
September 22, 1989
In 1989, Irving Berlin passed away at 17 Beekman Place in New York City. He was buried at Woodland Cemetery.
September 22, 1920
Vive la France! In 1920, Irving Berlin became a member of SACEM (the French Society of Authors, Composers, and Publishers).
September 02, 1938
In 1938, the film CAREFREE was released. The score included Irving Berlin's songs "Change Partners"" and ""I Used to Be Color Blind."""
August 29, 1935
In 1935 the film TOP HAT premiered in New York. Irving Berlin?s score includes ?Cheek to Cheek,? ?Isn?t It a Lovely Day,? and ?Top Hat, White Tie and Tails.?
August 19, 1918
In 1918 YIP, YIP, YAPHANK opened at the Century Theatre, New York. Irving Berlin appeared in the show and introduced "Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning."""
August 16, 1938
In 1938 the film ALEXANDER'S RAGTIME BAND was released by 20th Century Fox. The score included "Heat Wave"", ""Blue Skies"", ""Easter Parade"" and ""Now It Can Be Told."""
August 16, 1927
The ZIEGFELD FOLLIES OF 1927, with complete score by Irving Berlin, opened in New York. Songs included "Shakin' the Blues Away."""
August 04, 1942
In 1942 was the New York Premiere of the film HOLIDAY INN. The song "White Christmas"" was introduced in a scene featuring famous singer Bing Crosby."
August 03, 1938
In 1938 there was a gala radio tribute on WABC to celebrate the year of Irving Berlin's fiftieth birthday.
July 28, 1943
In 1943, the film version of THIS IS THE ARMY premiered.
July 23, 1944
In 1944 the Italian tour of THIS IS THE ARMY ended in Bari.
July 22, 1954
In 1954 Irving Berlin was given the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
July 15, 1949
In 1949 MISS LIBERTY opened at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway, with a score by Irving Berlin that includes the hit, "Let's Take an Old Fashioned Walk."" It ran for 308 performances."
July 14, 2009
In 2009 THE TIN PAN ALLEY RAG opened Off-Broadway at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. This musical imagines a meeting between Irving Berlin and Scott Joplin, and features classic songs such as "I Love A Piano"" and ""Alexander's Ragtime Band""."
July 07, 1913
In 1913 Irving Berlin is featured in the revue HELLO RAGTIME at the Hippodrome Theatre, London. He introduced "That International Rag."""
July 04, 1942
In 1942 THIS IS THE ARMY opened at the Broadway Theatre, New York. Irving Berlin appeared in his own ground-breaking all-soldier show and sang "Oh! How I Hate to get Up in the Morning."""
June 30, 1948
In 1948 the the film Easter Parade premiered in New York. The score includes Irving Berlin's classic song "Steppin' Out with My Baby."""
June 08, 1963
In 1963 MR. PRESIDENT closed on Broadway after a run of 265 performances and three Tony Award nominations.
June 07, 1969
In 1969, Irving Berlin received an honorary degree from Fordham University.
June 07, 1947
In 1947, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN opened at the Coliseum Theatre in London.
May 28, 1940
In 1940 LOUISIANA PURCHASE opened at the Imperial Theatre, New York. The score included "It's a Lovely Day Tomorrow."""
May 28, 1934
In 1934 Irving Berlin was on the cover of TIME magazine.
May 16, 1946
In 1946 Irving Berlin's musical ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, presented by Rodgers & Hammerstein and starring Ethel Merman, opened at the Imperial Theatre, New York, and ran for 1,147 performances.
May 11, 1988
In 1988 a tribute was held at Carnegie Hall to celebrate Irving Berlin's one hundredth birthday.
May 11, 1968
In 1968 Irving Berlin was honored on a ninety-minute television tribute by Ed Sullivan.
January 01, 1970
In 1888 Israel Beilin was born in Russia to Moses Beilin, a cantor, and his wife, Leah Lipkin. His date of birth is approximate due to differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars in the nineteenth century. The family emigrated to the United States, where Israel changed his name to Irving Berlin and became one of America's most beloved songwriters.
May 08, 1918
In 1918 newly-sworn-in U.S. citizen Irving Berlin was inducted into the United States Army with the rank of private. He went on to write the army show YIP, YIP, YAPHANK at Camp Upton, New York.
May 04, 1915
In 1915 WATCH YOUR STEP opened at the Empire Theatre in London, with songs by Irving Berlin.
May 01, 1954
In 1954 Irving Berlin received an honorary degree from Temple University.
April 08, 1950
In 1950 MISS LIBERTY closed on Broadway after 308 performances.
March 28, 1911
In 1911 Irving Berlin's hit song "Alexander's Ragtime Band"" was published."
March 24, 1945
In 1945 the South Pacific tour of THIS IS THE ARMY ended in the Philippines. Writer Irving Berlin returned to the United States.
March 20, 1928
In 1928 THE COCOANUTS opened at the Garrick Theatre, London.
March 15, 1952
In 1952, CALL ME MADAM opened at the Coliseum Theatre, London.
March 04, 1943
On this day in 1943, not only did Irving Berlin's "White Christmas"" win Best Song at the 15th Annual Academy Awards, but Berlin also presented the category, announcing himself as the winner!"
March 03, 1944
In 1944, Irving Berlin's patriotic, all-soldier musical THIS IS THE ARMY opened at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Italy.
February 26, 1918
In 1918, Irving Berlin became a citizen of the United States.
February 21, 1935
In 1935, STOP PRESS, the British version of AS THOUSANDS CHEER, opened at the Adelphi Theatre in London.
February 19, 1949
In 1949, ANNIE DU FAR WEST opened at the Thtre du Chatelet in Paris - a French language production of Irving Berlin's ANNIE GET YOUR GUN.
February 19, 1916
In 1916, Irving Berlin's FOLLOW THE CROWD, the English title for STOP! LOOK! LISTEN!, opened at the Empire Theatre, London.
February 17, 1932
In 1932, FACE THE MUSIC opened in New York. The score included Irving Berlin's songs "Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee, "" ""Manhattan Madness,"" and ""Soft Lights and Sweet Music."""
February 04, 1937
In 1937 was the New York premiere of the Irving Berlin film ON THE AVENUE. The score included "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm"" and ""Slumming on Park Avenue."""
February 02, 1912
In 1912, Irving Berlin married Dorothy Goetz, sister of songwriter E. Ray Goetz. The newlyweds took an apartment at 346 West Seventy-second Street in New York City.
January 10, 1977
In 1977, Irving Berlin was given the Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford.
January 04, 2009
In 2009, WHITE CHRISTMAS the stage musical closed on Broadway after two years of limited holiday runs and a total of 53 performances.
January 04, 1926
In 1926, Irving Berlin and Ellin Mackay were married at City Hall, New York.