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Last Updated: Apr 21st, 2011 - 14:44:53 


The Man Who Made Christmas White
By Sarah Lane
Nov 17, 2008, 12:10 PST

Irving Berlin (1888-1989)

The sun is shining
The grass is green
The orange and palm trees sway
There’s never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it’s December the twenty-fourth
And I’m longing to be up north...

Do you know what song begins with this verse? If not, you’re not alone. Most people don’t know that a self-taught composer and lyricist named Irving Berlin wrote this infamous song called, “White Christmas.” We recognize it only when hearing the words, ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.’ The song has since become a holiday standard.

Born with the name Israel Baline, Irving Berlin was one of eight children. His family moved from overseas to New York City in 1893. Berlin’s first song titled, “Marie from Sunny Italy” was published in 1907 under the name I. Berlin by mistake. From that day forward he referred to himself as Irving Berlin.

Berlin never learned how to read harmony and he played by ear, but he nevertheless managed to create hit songs. In 1938 on the eve of World War II, his song, “God Bless America,” was unofficially adopted as a second national anthem. The song itself was written several years earlier during the time he served in the Army, but it was never released to the public.

In 1942, the film Holiday Inn was released starring Bing Crosby and featuring the song “White Christmas.” When Crosby traveled overseas to sing to the troops, they always requested “White Christmas.” Crosby was reluctant to perform it due to the overwhelming feeling of nostalgia it evoked in the homesick soldiers, but he would always relent.

Irving Berlin received the Army’s Medal of Merit from President Harry Truman in 1945. In 1955, he received the Congressional Gold Medal from President Dwight D. Eisenhower for “God Bless America” and his many other patriotic contributions to the music industry. Irving always donated large portions of his royalties to such foundations as the Army Emergency Relief Fund and the Boy & Girl Scouts of America.

Berlin was given an Academy Award in 1942 for the best song of all time, “White Christmas.” He lived a long life of 101 years and although he passed away on September 22, 1989, his spirit comes to life each holiday season inside the notes of a song he never dreamed would touch so many lives.

Source: A & E Television Networks

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