Irving Berlin

Irving Berlin

Irving Berlin is considered to be the most famous composer and songwriters ever in the United States. Having lived all his life in the States, he has a lot of hits in both the film industry and Broadway.

Berlin’s birth name was Israel Baline and he was born on 11th of May, 1988 in a Russian village named Tyumen. The Jews of the region were being persecuted and to avoid that Berlin’s family moved to United States in mid-1890s and started living in New York City. In his teenage years Berlin showed his talents while performing street singing and by the year 1906, he got a job as a singing waiter in a restaurant in Chinatown. Marie From Sunny Italy was his first ever tune that got published in 1907. Nick Nicholson wrote down the music for the tune while Berlin was the lyricist. Since he was still using his birth name Baline, it got misspelled on sheet music as Berlin and it’s at that moment that he decided to keep it going, thus getting the name Irving Berlin.

A few years down the road, a music publisher Waterson & Snyder hired Berlin as a lyricist. In 1911, Berlin released “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”, a song that became an instant hit and got him the nickname of “King of Tin Pan Alley”. Berlin was a hardworking musician who never lost the meticulousness of the effort he put in his work. He had learned to play the piano by himself and never used the F-sharp key. While at the same time he kept on exploring for new keys. By the 1920s, Berlin had a long list of songs to his name.

Berlin married his first wife Dorothy Goetz in 1912 but only months after they got married she died from typhoid. He was deeply sorrowed by the loss and wrote a very popular ballad named “When I Lost You” to express his feelings. Years after his lost, he fell for Ellin Mackay. Mackay’s father didn’t approve their courtship and sent his daughter to Europe. During their time apart Berlin expressed his yearning by writing some very beautiful songs including “Always” and “What I’ll Do”. As soon as Mackay returned to the States they eloped and after that stayed married for a very long time during which they had four children. The marriage ended only after Mackay died in 1988.

In 1914, Irving Berlin achieved chartered membership of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Five years later, in 1919, he opened his own music company which finally gave him complete control over the copyrights of all his work.

Berlin wrote over 1500 songs during his career and was responsible for composing for numerous films and musicals. Puttin’ on the Ritz (1929), Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938), Top Hat (1935) and Easter Parade (1948) are among his best works that he did for the big screen. “White Christmas”, another song by Berlin, was featured in Holiday Inn (1942) and this song eventually reached the spot of most sold song ever. Berlin’s patriotic song “God Bless America” is also worth remembering as it eventually achieved the status of the “unofficial” national anthem.

Berlin kept on creating more and more masterpieces and over the period of his career was nominated nine times for Academy Award, “White Christmas” being the reason he won in 1943. Irving Berlin eventually retired in 1962 and spent his days relaxing at home. Even though he rarely came out in public, the praise still kept on coming for his work. He eventually passed away on 22nd September 1989 in New York City.


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