Irving Berlin

Icons of the Century

He lived the American Dream, this Russian emigrant born Israel Baline. Raised poor on New York’s Lower East Side, he would soon write a pop song that made him famous, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”

Its success was followed by a long list of equally beloved songs, including ballads “What’ll I Do?” and “Always,” the chipper “Blue Skies” and, of course, the anthemic “God Bless America.”

His contribution to the movies included “Top Hat,” “Easter Parade” and “Holiday Inn,” which gave us seasonal classic “White Christas.”

As the American musical matured, so did he, penning one of the best, “Annie Get Your Gun,” after touring the world in the soldier revue “This Is the Army.”

But Berlin’s greatest triumph was crafting memorably touching songs whose music and lyrics spoke — and continue to speak — to the American heart

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