He was not gay, & he was a Jew who wrote the best selling Christmas song of all time. His life spanned more than 100 years & he composed over 1000 songs. Irving Berlin was born Israel Beilin in 1988, his exact place of birth is unknown, although his family had been living in Tolochin, Russia, when they immigrated to New York in 1893. When his father died, Berlin, just turned 13, worked the streets in various odd jobs, singing for pennies, then as a singing waiter in a Chinatown Cafe. In 1907 he published his first song, Marie from Sunny Italy, & in 1911 he had his first major international hit - Alexander's Ragtime Band.
For 5 decades, Irving Berlin composed ballads, dance numbers, novelty tunes & love songs that defined American popular song for much of the century. Irving Berlin standards include: How Deep Is the Ocean, Blue Skies, White Christmas, Always, Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better, There's No Business Like Show Business, Cheek to Cheek, Puttin' on the Ritz, A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody, Heat Wave, Easter Parade, Let's Face the Music & Dance, & God Bless America.
He wrote for Broadway & Hollywood. He composed 17 complete scores for Broadway musicals & revues, including the phenomenal score for Annie get Your Gun. Among the Hollywood movie musical classics with scores by Irving Berlin are Top Hat, Follow The Fleet, On The Avenue, Alexander's Rag Time Band, Holiday Inn, This Is The Army, Blue Skies, Easter Parade, White Christmas & There's No Business Like Show Business. His songs have provided memorable moments other films, from The Jazz Singer in 1927 to Home Alone in 1991. Among his many awards are a dozen Grammys, 2 Tony Awards & the Academy Award for White Christmas in 1942.
In 1978, a jaw-droppingly handsome young man with deep blue eyes, stood center stage, straight up & still & with a sweet pure tenor, sang the 1924 Irving Berlin tune- What’ll I Do? for an audition. I was impressed with his looks & his talent. More than a year later this young man would tell me that he was in love with me while Harry Nillson sang What'll I Do on the stereo in the background. This man would eventually become my Husband & I would spend more than half of my life at his side. What’ll I Do remains my favorite Irving Berlin song, although I love them all. I also have quite a soft spot for You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun:
Oh, a man may be hot...
But he's not...
When he's shot!
Oh you can't get a man with a gun!