Irving Berlin (1888)
It was on this date, May 11, 1888, in a Russian-Jewish ghetto, that the American songwriter who gave us “White Christmas” and “God Bless America,” Irving Berlin was born. He emigrated at the age of five and spent the next 95 years becoming one of the most celebrated film and stage songwriters in US history.
In her biography of her father, Irving Berlin: A Daughter’s Memoir, Mary Ellin Barrett refers to her father’s “agnosticism,” (p.123) and describes him as a “nonbeliever.” Irving Berlin follows a long tradition of freethinkers who used the religious vocabulary familiar to the majority. He died of a heart attack in New York City on 22 December 1989.
Originally published May 2003 by Ronald Bruce Meyer.