Berlin, Irving

Berlin, Irving

Berlin, Irving, 1888-1989, American songwriter, b. Russia. Berlin's surname was originally Baline. Of his nearly 1,000 songs, Alexander's Ragtime Band (1911) was his first outstanding hit. In 1918, while he was in the army, he wrote, produced, and acted in Yip, Yip, Yaphank, which he rewrote in 1942 as This Is the Army. Berlin wrote songs for several of the Ziegfeld Follies and the Music Box Revue (1921-24) as well as the Broadway musicals As Thousands Cheer (1933), Annie Get Your Gun (1946), Miss Liberty (1949), Call Me Madam (1950), and Mr. President (1962). He was the composer of numerous film scores, and several of his stage musicals were filmed. Among his best-known songs are "God Bless America," "Easter Parade," "White Christmas," and "There's No Business Like Show Business."

See C. Hamm, ed., Irving Berlin: Early Songs (1995), and R. Kimball and L. Emmet, ed., The Complete Lyrics of Irvine Berlin (2001); M. E. Barrett, Irving Berlin: A Daughter's Memoir (1994); biographies by M. Freedland (1974), L. Bergreen (1990), and E. Jablonski (1999).

orig. Israel Baline

(born May 11, 1888, Mogilyov, Russia—died Sept. 22, 1989, New York, N.Y., U.S.) U.S. songwriter. The son of a Russian Jewish cantor, he and his family immigrated to New York City in 1893. He worked as a street singer and singing waiter, then began writing songs. His first published song, “Marie from Sunny Italy,” appeared in 1907; a printer's error named him Irving Berlin. In 1911 he wrote the great hit of Tin Pan Alley's ragtime vogue, “Alexander's Ragtime Band.” He may have written more than 1,500 songs. Some of his songs include “Cheek to Cheek” and “God Bless America.” He scored many successful films; his score for Holiday Inn (1942) introduced “White Christmas,” one of the best-selling songs of all time. Altogether Berlin wrote the scores for 19 Broadway shows (including Annie Get Your Gun, 1946) and 18 films.

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