Famous Freemason - Israel Isidore Baline
"Life is 10 percent what you make it, and 90 percent how you take it."
Better known as Irving Berlin, Israel Baline was an American composer and lyricist. His music forms a large part of the Great American Songbook.
Born in Imperial Russia, Berlin arrived in the United States at the age of five. He published his first song, "Marie from Sunny Italy", in 1907, receiving 33 cents for the publishing rights, and became known for international hits, such as 1911's "Alexander's Ragtime Band". He also was an owner of the Music Box Theatre on Broadway. For much of his career Berlin could not read sheet music, and was such a limited piano player that he could only play in the key of F-sharp; he used his custom piano equipped with a transposing lever when he needed to play in keys other than F-sharp.
"Alexander's Ragtime Band" sparked an international dance craze in places as far away as Berlin's native Russia, which also "flung itself into the ragtime beat with an abandon bordering on mania". Over the years he was known for writing music and lyrics in the American vernacular: uncomplicated, simple and direct, with his stated aim being to "reach the heart of the average American," whom he saw as the "real soul of the country". In doing so, said Walter Cronkite, at Berlin's 100th birthday tribute, he "helped write the story of this country, capturing the best of who we are and the dreams that shape our lives".
He wrote hundreds of songs, many becoming major hits, which made him famous before he turned thirty. During his 60-year career he wrote an estimated 1,500 songs, including the scores for 20 original Broadway shows and 15 original Hollywood films, with his songs nominated eight times for Academy Awards. Many songs became popular themes and anthems, including "Alexander's Ragtime Band", "Easter Parade", "Puttin' on the Ritz", "Cheek to Cheek", "White Christmas", "Happy Holiday", "Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)", and "There's No Business Like Show Business". His Broadway musical and 1943 film This Is the Army, with Ronald Reagan, had Kate Smith singing Berlin's "God Bless America", first performed in 1938.
Berlin died in 1989 at the age of 101. Composer Douglas Moore sets Berlin apart from all other contemporary songwriters, and includes him instead with Stephen Foster, Walt Whitman, and Carl Sandburg, as a "great American minstrel"—someone who has "caught and immortalized in his songs what we say, what we think about, and what we believe." Composer George Gershwin called him "the greatest songwriter that has ever lived", and composer Jerome Kern concluded that "Irving Berlin has no place in American music—he is American music."
Bro. Berlin was a member of Munn Lodge no. 190, New York City, the Scottish Rite Valley of New York City, and Mecca Shrine Temple.