A Soldier's Story: Private First Class James Harvey Booth

A Soldier's Story: Private Irving Berlin

Private Irving Berlin was born in Israel Beilin, on May 11, 1888, in Imperial Russia. His family immigrated to New York in 1893 to escape the anti-Jewish pogroms.

To help support his family, Irving Berlin began working at eight, selling newspapers and singing for extra coins. Then, at fourteen, he left home 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.

Private Irving Berlin's hard work paid off, and he began gaining a following in  Tin Pan Alley and fame through Alexander's Ragtime Band.

Enlisting at age 30 at the beginning of World War I, the Army assigned Private Irving 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.

Private Irving Berlin returned to patriotic service during World War II as a civilian, where he again wrote patriotic songs to encourage public support of the Red Cross and war bonds. In addition, 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, Private Irving Berlin, went back to creating commercial music. He died in his sleep on September 22, 1989, at 101.

Private 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 America's second anthem, God Bless America.


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

In addition to the travel writings at www.takethebackroads.com, you can also read her book reviews at www.riteoffancy.com and US military biographies at www.everydaypatriot.com

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