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,” “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.
This BBC report first aired on April 1, 1957.