Irving Berlin: America’s Unlikely Composer

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Irving Berlin: America’s Unlikely Composer


I rving Berlin was one of the most prominent and prolific composers in the US. Yet, his musical prominence was most unlikely. An immigrant from Russia, Berlin dropped out of school, never learning to read or write music. Leaving home at the age of 14, he sang on street corners, got a job as a “newsie,” and taught himself the piano learning to only play the black keys. His first smash hit “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” swept the nation and Berlin was hailed as the “King of Ragtime.” During the Jazz Age of the 1920s and 1930s, Berlin produced more hits than probably any composer including “God Bless America,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “Blue Skies,” and “White Christmas.”

Aimed at readers at third to fifth grade levels, this chapter book chronicles the composer’s life from the rugged Lower East Side of New York to his startling and improbable success. With vintage photos and rich, engaging history, It serves well on educational curriculum for students learning about music.