Born Israel Isidore Baline, in Tyumen, Siberia, he emigrated to the United States in 1893 with the rest of his family. Following the death of his father in 1896, Irving found himself having to work to survive. He did various street jobs including selling newspapers and busking. The harsh economic reality of having to work or starve was to have a lasting effect on the way Irving treated money. In 1911 the song "Alexander's Ragtime Band" launched a musical career that would span over a thousand songs including many hit Broadway musicals.
Irving's first credited song lyrics were for "Marie from Sunny Italy" in 1907, the year he changed his name. He was responsible for many Hollywood film scores including Top Hat (1935) as well as songs such as "White Christmas" from the film Holiday Inn (1942). Irving was equally as prolific on Broadway, where he is perhaps best known for Annie Get Your Gun (1946), although he stopped writing after the failure of Mr President in 1962. Becoming a virtual recluse in his last years, Berlin didn't attend the 100th birthday party held in his honor.
One of Irving Berlin's best-know songs is "God Bless America."