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Irving Berlin (1888–1989) has been called—by George Gershwin, among others—the greatest songwriter of the golden age of the American popular song. “Berlin has no place in American music,” legendary composer Jerome Kern wrote; “he is American music.” In a career that spanned an astonishing nine decades, Berlin wrote some fifteen hundred tunes, including “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “God Bless America,” and “White Christmas.” From ragtime to the rock era, Berlin’s work has endured in the very fiber of American national identity.
Exploring the interplay of Berlin’s life with the life of New York City, noted biographer James Kaplan offers a visceral narrative of Berlin as self‑made man and witty, wily, tough Jewish immigrant. This fast‑paced, musically opinionated biography uncovers Berlin’s unique brilliance as a composer of music and lyrics. Masterfully written and psychologically penetrating, Kaplan’s book underscores Berlin’s continued relevance in American popular culture.
About Jewish Lives:
Jewish Lives is a prizewinning series of interpretative biography designed to explore the many facets of Jewish identity. Individual volumes illuminate the imprint of Jewish figures upon literature, religion, philosophy, politics, cultural and economic life, and the arts and sciences. Subjects are paired with authors to elicit lively, deeply informed books that explore the range and depth of the Jewish experience from antiquity to the present.
In 2014, the Jewish Book Council named Jewish Lives the winner of its Jewish Book of the Year Award, the first series ever to receive this award.
More praise for Jewish Lives:
“Excellent.” – New York times
“Exemplary.” – Wall St. Journal
“Distinguished.” – New Yorker
“Superb.” – The Guardian
A Note From the Publisher
“James Kaplan’s Irving Berlin is just like its subject: taut, vibrant, and thrumming with the irresistible words and music of America’s songwriter laureate. It’s by turns a buoyant and poignant trip across the tumultuous 20th century, through the eyes of an artist who helped define its popular taste. Kaplan reclaims the proud Jewish identity of the patriotic immigrant who knew that his country was blessed, because he had been.”
—Todd S. Purdum, author of Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution