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…