“God Bless America”, perhaps one of our nation’s most well-known and moving anthems, was composed by Irving Berlin (1888-1989), a true American who immigrated to America when he was five years old. Born Israel Baline in Eastern Russia, the musician was one of eight children whose parents brought them to New York in 1893 to escape the pogroms in Russia. As a young boy, he took to the streets of the Lower East Side of New York City to help support his mother and family after his father had died. In the early 1900s, Berlin worked as a singing waiter in Chinatown, and began writing songs. In 1907, he published his first song, “Marie From Sunny Italy” and by 1911, he had his first major international hit, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”
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