22 May 2020

Published May 20, 2020 by rochellewisoff

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Word Count: 100


Cossacks torched the shtetl of Tolochin. Flames shot up from Cantor Beilin’s home. Five-year-old Israel choked on the billowing smoke, huddled in a ditch with his brother and sisters. He had never seen Papa weep so.

A ship carried the Beilins to America. In New York’s Lower Eastside, Izzy discovered his talent and at thirteen sang on the streets for thrown pennies.

Music and America. His love for both welled up inside of him and spilled over in the songs he wrote.

Composer Jerome Kern said of Izzy, “Irving Berlin has no place in American music—he is American Music.”


Born in 1888, Irving Berlin lived to be 101. Trying en-capsulize him in 100 words is no easy task. While you might not be familiar with name, I’ll bet you’re familiar with his music. “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (Scandalous in 1911), “Easter Parade,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “God Bless America,” and that seasonal favorite “White Christmas” to name a few. 

Irving Berlin 1906

76 comments on “22 May 2020

  • This is such an inspiring true life story.
    Adversity does different things to people.
    So glad that he discovered his talent, enriched the music world and became rich. His Papa will weep no more.
    Have a great week, Rochelle! Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

  • “Music and America. His love for both welled up inside of him and spilled over in the songs he wrote.” – Great line Rochelle. Kind of like pouring one’s heart and soul into their art. Authentic, rather than manufactured.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Interesting bit of roots. Watching the video made me remember the fact that he could only play the piano in one key (only the black keys), so he used his piano to transpose to whatever key he needed. Some composers, like Cole Porter, looked down on his lack of formal training, but not even Gershwin could keep up with the number of popular tunes he wrote.

    Liked by 1 person

  • The list is endless of those who rose from nothing to greatness. Often it is that “necessity is the mother of invention” that drives the outcome, and then there are those that just seem to be born with a special talent. Thanks for sharing a story of a very talented musician.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Ronda,

      I’ll bet more people are familiar with his music than they realize. 😉 Say those fans of Young Frankenstein who might not realize Puttin’ on the Ritz was one of his. Music was a mainstay in our house. My earliest and fondest memories are of Dad’s records playing on Sunday morning. Thank you.




  • Beautiful and oh-so-relevant … especially nowadays, when the current administration is enacting 1944 ‘laws’ to prevent entry and deport children escaping persecution, even without notifying their families, in the supposed claim of ‘protecting America’ from illness and the undesirables.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Nobbin,

      Everyone knows White Christmas, don’t they? I’m sure few realize where it came from. I was surprised, myself, from whefre it actually came–a deep place indeed. Irving Berlin married a Catholic woman (whose wealthy father disowned her for marrying a Jew). They had a son who only lived a few weeks, passing away on Christmas. I’m pleased to have sent you to Wikipedia. 😉 My work here is complete. Thank you.



      Liked by 1 person

  • Oh yeah. To me, Irving Berlin was a household word. Haven’t heard his name in a while, but I remember him well. A lot of the music I grew up with came from him. You do him justice by showing us his roots.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Eric,

      Like you, he was a household name…along with many others, thanks to my dad’s love of music: the classics, the 40’s swing music, and one of my favorites Gilbert and Sullivan. 😉 Thank you.



      Liked by 1 person

  • Dear Rochelle,

    Oh, you knocked it outta the park with this one. You managed to bring the horrors of the pogrom to the love of music of a brilliant natural musician in 100 words. You are the veritable queen of the genre. Love this.

    Shalom and lotsa musical love,


    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Laurie,

      I doubt there’s a person alive who hasn’t heard his music. That might be a broad statement…the western world perhaps. 😉 Thank you for your glowing words.




  • Stories like this make me wonder about how many talented people have been lost and will be lost because of prejudice and stupidity. And they make me happy to know that some have survived to make our lives better. Well done, my dear.

    Liked by 1 person

  • I know of ragtime only through the novels I read and they made it seem so scandalous. I wonder what they would say if they heard today’s top 40 hits! I really enjoyed the video clip. When I was young, those clips seemed ancient. The older I get I realise just how few decades separate us from those days.

    Liked by 2 people

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