Irving Berlin

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Decades: 1980s 1990s 2000s
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Israel Isidore Baline, 11 May 1888, Temun, Siberia, Russia, d. 22 September 1989, New York City, New York, USA. Despite his foreign birth, Berlin became one of the greatest and most American of all songwriters. When he was four years old his family escaped a pogrom and travelled to the USA. His father was a cantor in his homeland, but in their new country he had to earn his living as a meat inspector in New York City, singing in the synagogue only when the regular cantor was unavailable. An indifferent student, Berlin was happier singing, but in 1896, following the death of his father, he was obliged to work. At the age of 14 he began singing in saloons and on street corners. It was while engaged in this latter activity that he was ‘discovered’ and recommended to songwriter and publisher Harry Von Tilzer, who hired him to sing songs from the balcony of a 14th Street theatre. By 1906 Berlin had not advanced far, working as a singing waiter in...

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