With a life that spanned more than 100 years and a catalogue that boasts over 1,000 songs, Irving Berlin (1888-1989) epitomized Jerome Kern’s famous maxim that “Irving Berlin has no place in American music – he is American music.” Berlin wrote scores to 13 Broadway musicals, contributed to seven revues, wrote songs for 12 classic Hollywood movie musicals and created many of the most well-known popular songs of the 20th century. Born in Russia, he immigrated to the Lower East Side, where he started as a singing waiter and soon became a lyricist, composer and music publisher. An intuitive businessman, Irving Berlin was a co-founder of ASCAP, founder of his own music publishing company and builder of the Music Box Theatre to house his Music Box Revues. For his paean to his beloved country, “God Bless America,” he established a fund which receives all revenue for the song and distributes it to the Boy and Girl Scouts.
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