A Soldier's Story: Private Irving Berlin
To help support his family, Irving Berlin began working at the age of eight, selling newspapers and singing for extra coins. He left home at fourteen and began singing for money full time, starting with street performances, working as a singing demonstrator and finally as a singing waiter. Teaching himself the piano after closing.
Irving Berlin's hard work paid off and he began gaining a following in Tin Pan Alley and fame through Alexander's Ragtime Band.
Drafted at age 30 at the beginning of WWI, the Army assigned Private Berlin to the 152nd Depot Brigade at Camp Upton, where his duty was to write patriotic songs and shows for troop entertainment.
After the war, he returned to Tin Pan Alley and, with Sam Haris opened the Music Box Theater, continuing to write musical scores for Zeigfried Follies and the Music Box Review.
Irving Berlin returned to patriotic service during WWII, this time as a civilian, where he again wrote patriotic songs to encourage public support of the Red Cross and war bonds. He wrote the stage show, "This is the Army" which toured the world during the war, keeping him away from home for almost four years. He refused payment and expenses for this service.
Once home and forever the workaholic, Irving Berlin went back to creating commercial music. He died in his sleep on September 22, 1989, at the age of 101.
Irving Berlin wrote more than 1500 pieces of music, including the scores for Annie, get your Gun, White Christmas, and There's No Business Like Show Business. He is also the creator of what is considered to be America's second anthem, God Bless America