US songwriter. He wrote more than fifteen hundred songs, many of which acquired worldwide familiarity. Bing Crosby's recording of his ‘White Christmas’ became the best-selling record of all time.
Born in Russia, he emigrated to the USA with his family in 1893. He was a street singer and a singing waiter in 1907, when he began writing lyrics; a printer's error gave him the name ‘Berlin’. His first big success was ‘Alexander's Ragtime Band’ (1911), which became an international hit. He formed his own music publishing company in 1919, and contributed to many shows and revues, including Annie Get Your Gun (1946) and Call Me Madam (1953), which were filmed in 1950 and 1953 respectively; other musical films included Top Hat (1935), On the Avenue (1937), Holiday Inn (1942), and Easter Parade (1948).
He never learned to read music or to play the piano properly, but his songs possessed a quality that made people of all colours and creeds want to sing them.