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Irving Berlin



A genius of American popular song, Irving Berlin created tin pan alley international bestsellers, the scores of Broadway revues and book musicals, and classic motion pictures. A Russian imigrant who learned to be American on the streets of New York City, he mastered the craft of songwriting experimentally rather than being schooled in current practice. From the first he understood songwriting to be a business and his creations as valuable properties. He built an important New York music publishing house and for a period of time partnered in the running of the Music Box Theater.

From the 1910s to the 1960s he aptly measured the proportions of the timeless and the topical in songs necessary to achieve success, and produced a song book of cannonical importance in American popular music.  A lyricist as well as melodist, he devised an idiomatic way of suiting American speech to musical phrasing. For an apt epitome of his 100 years of accomplishment, see David S. Shields/ALS