13 February 2013

God Bless America ~ the Anthem

Nearly 75 years ago Americans, for the first time, heard the now famous Irving Berlin song God Bless America as sung on the radio by Kate Smith. Berlin had written the patriotic anthem in 1918 before stashing it away, unpublished, in a trunk.

Recommend you read the story before viewing the video of Kate's introduction of the song.

The time was 1938. America was still in a terrible economic depression. Hitler was taking over Europe and Americans were afraid that the United States would have to go to war. It was a time of hardship and worry for most of this country's citizens.

TV did not make its first appearance until 1939 at the New York World Exposition. In 1938 the era of radio was huge. American families sat around their radios in the evenings, listening to their favorite entertainers, and no entertainer was more popular than Kate Smith.

Kate was also very patriotic. It pained her to see Americans so depressed and afraid of what the next day would bring. She had hope for America, and faith in her fellow Americans. She wanted to do something to cheer them up, so she went to the famous Russian born American song writer, Irvin Berlin and asked for a song that would make Americans feel good again about their country.

She described what she was looking for and he said he had just the thing for her. He went to his files and found a song that he had written, but never published, more than 20 years before. He gave it to Kate and she worked on it with her studio orchestra.

Neither was sure how he song was received by the public, but both agreed not to take any profits. All profits from God Bless America would go to the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America. Over the years millions of dollars in royalties have been distributed to the two organizations.

The video begins with Kate entering the radio studio. She introduces the new song for the first time and begins singing. Scenes from the 1940 movie play while she still sings. At the 4:20 mark you will see a young Ronald Reagan sitting in an office reading a copy of Variety.

Now follows the video that introduced God Bless America.
To read more about Berlin and Smith and their song click here.


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