Biography of Irving Berlin - Israel Baline
Irving Berlin - Israel Baline (May 11, 1888 – September 22, 1989) was a Jewish American composer and lyricist, and one of the most prolific American songwriters in history. Berlin was one of the few Tin Pan Alley/Broadway songwriters who wrote both lyrics and music for his songs. Although he never learned to read music beyond a rudimentary level, with the help of various uncredited musical assistants or collaborators, he eventually composed nearly 1,000 songs. Among his many compositions were "God Bless America", "Cheek To Cheek", "White Christmas", "Anything You Can Do", "There's No Business Like Show Business", and the 1911 song that made him a household name, "Alexander's Ragtime Band," all of which left an indelible mark on music and culture worldwide. He composed seventeen film scores and twenty-one Broadway scores.
In 1970, Life magazine chose him as one of its 100 most important Americans of the twentieth century in a special edition. Songwriter Jerome Kern once said of him, "Irving Berlin has no place in American music. He is American music."
Berlin was born Israel (Isadore) Baline (or Beilin) - one of eight children born to a Jewish family in Tolochin, Mogilev Guberniya in Russian Empire (today Belarus). His family immigrated to the United States in 1893. His parents were Leah (Lena) Yarchin and Mosheh (Moses) Baline (transcribed as Beilin); his father was a cantor who obtained other paid work certifying kosher meat.
Following the death of his father in 1896, Irving found himself having to work to survive. He did various street jobs, including selling newspapers and busking. The harsh economic reality of having to work or starve was to have a lasting effect on the way Berlin treated money. While working as a singing waiter at Pelham's Cafe in Chinatown, Berlin was asked by the proprietor to write an original song for the cafe because a rival tavern had had their own song published. "Marie from Sunny Italy," with music by Nick Nicholson, the cafe's pianist, was the result, and it was soon published. Although it earned him only 37 cents, it gave him a new career and a new name: Israel Beilin was misprinted as "I. Berlin" on the sheet music.
Source: Wikipedia, Time Magazine