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Immigrant Of The Day: Irving Berlin of Russia

by Kevin R. Johnson

Irving Berlin (Russia)

220pxirving_berlin_nywts Born Israel Baline in Russia in 1888, Irving Berlin (1888-1989) was one of eight children. His family moved to New York via a stop in Ellis Island in 1893 to escape the pogroms in Russia. At age eight, he took to the streets of the Lower East Side of New York City to help support his mother and family after his father died . In the early 1900s he worked as a singing waiter in restaurants and started writing songs. His first published hit was "Marie From Sunny Italy." In World War I, he wrote the musical Yip, Yip, Yaphank; the big hit song in the musical was "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning." On Armistice Day, 1938, he introduced "God Bless America," which was sung by Kate Smith. In World War II, Berlin wrote the musical This is the Army, which raised $10 million for the Army Emergency Relief. His hits in this musical were "This is the Army, Mr Jones" and "I Left My Heart at the Stage Door Canteen."

Berlin wrote more than 900 songs, 19 musicals and the scores of 18 movies. Some of his songs that have become classics include "There's No Business Like Show Business," "Easter Parade," and "White Christmas."

Berlin also supported Jewish charities and organizations and donated many dollars to worthwhile causes. On February 18, 1955, President Eisenhower presented him with a gold medal in recognition of his service in composing many patriotic songs for the country. Earlier, Berlin assigned the copyright for "God Bless America" to the God Bless America Fund, which has raised millions of dollars for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

Irving Berlin died on September 22, 1989, at the age of 101.

About The Author

Kevin R. Johnson is currently Dean, Professor of Law and Chicana/o Studies, and the Mabie-Apallas Public Interest Law Chair holder at the University of California at Davis. He is also one of the editors of ImmigrationProf Blog.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.