Here’s a song in honor of the birthday of Irving Berlin (1888-1989), and if you recognize all or even most of the performers, that can mean only one thing: you’re at least as old as I am.
Israel Isidore Baline was born in Russia on May 11, 1888, and moved with his family to New York City in 1893 — part of a mass exodus of Jewish families fleeing anti-Jewish violence in Russia. “Israel” became “Irving” sometime after his arrival in the United States, and “Baline” became “Berlin” as the result of a printer’s error when he published his first song in 1907. In 1911 he had his first big hit with “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” and he went on to write hundreds more — including “White Christmas,” “God Bless America,” “Easter Parade,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” He composed the scores for nineteen Broadway shows and eighteen Hollywood movies.
In 1968, a few days before his 80th birthday, Irving Berlin appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show to sing one of his greatest hits:
Here’s something you don’t see every day: Japanese square dancers, dancing to Christmas music by a Russian-born American Jewish songwriter. Now there’s multiculturalism for you.
The Silhouettes, a dance troupe from Colorado, give an innovative interpretation of the Irving Berlin classic “God Bless America.”