22 Interesting Facts About Irving Berlin, a Great Songwriter

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Do you know who composed the song White Christmas, There’s No Business Like Show Business, Easter Parade and God Bless America? One of the most famous composers and lyricists of popular music in the world is Irving Berlin. His life story is one of

Here are some of the most interesting and important facts about this fascinating man.

1. Irving Berlin lived to be 101 years of age. He was born on May 11, 1888 and died on September 22, 1989. 

2. He was born in Tyumen, Russia and his real name is Israel Isidore Baline.

3. At the age of five in 1893, his family settled in New York City in the United States. He spent his youth on the Lower East Side.

4. His father died when he was 13 and he had to stop schooling to help support the family. Berlin became a newspaper boy, hawking The Evening Journal.

5. His very first earning was five pennies that constituted his first day's receipts, his contribution to the family budget. His other 7 siblings also worked in shirt and cigar factories.


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6. Izzy, as he was fondly called, left his home when he was 14 years of age. He is also known to be called “Irvie”.

7. Berlin worked as a singing waiter at the age of 18 at the Pelham Cafe in Chinatown and started writing song lyrics for a publishing house. He published his first song, "Marie from Sunny Italy", in 1907

8. He married Dorothy Goetz in 1912 but died 6 months later of typhoid fever. To express his grief, he wrote the "When I Lost You". It was his first ballad and immediately became a popular hit and sold more than a million copies.

9. Although he had no formal musical education, this Russian-American composer wrote the songs for many motion pictures, musical comedies and revue.

10. Among his most popular compositions were “Annie Get Your Gun” which he wrote in 1946 and Call Me Madam which he composed in 1956.


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11. His most popular songs include Blue Skies, A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody, Easter Parade, White Christmas, Happy Holiday, There’s No Business Like Show Business and God Bless America.

12. He scored a tremendous hit with “Alexander’s Ragtime Band in 1911. It was his first major hit.

13. While a United State Army sergeant during the First World War, he wrote the all-soldier revue “Yip, Yip,Yap-hank in 1917.

14. The song “Oh How I Hate To Get Up in the Morning” was included in the all-soldier revue “Yip, Yip, Yap-hank”

15. During World War II in 1942, he wrote a similar show “This Is the Army”.


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16. His song “White Christmas” holds the record for the bestselling single of all time. According to the Guinness World Records, the version sung by Bing Cosby is the bestselling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide.

17. "White Christmas" is the most-recorded Christmas song; there have been more than 500 recorded versions of the song, in several different languages. Bing Cosby recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers for Decca Records in just 18 minutes on May 29, 1942

18. During his 60-year career, Berlin wrote about 1,500 songs, including the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films, with his songs nominated eight times for Academy Awards.

19. The song “Always” (1925) was written by Berlin when he fell in love with Ellin Mackay, who later became his wife while the song “Blue Skies” 1926) was written after his first daughter's birth as a song just for her.

20. Ellin, a Catholic, and Berlin, a Jewish, were married in a simple ceremony without the blessings of Ellin’s father. They were married for 63 years and have four children; 3 girls and a boy named Irving who died in infancy.  


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21. In 1949, the Young Men's Hebrew Association (YMHA) honored him as one the twelve "most outstanding Americans of Jewish faith.

22. After the September 11 attacks in 2001, Celine Dion recorded the song God Bless America as a tribute, making it #1 on the charts.

1 comment

Roberta Baxter
Posted on Sep 12, 2012