The song God Bless America holds a special place in the hearts of every American. Every song has a history. So does God Bless America. It was first introduced by singer Kate Smith in 1940. Kate was an extremely popular singer. Frank Sinatra considered her the best singer of her time. When he first heard the song on the radio, and a million other guys, they all pretended to have dust in their eyes as they wiped away their tears.
The time was 1940. America was still in a terrible economic depression. Hitler was taking over Europe and Americans were afraid they would have to enter the war. It was a time of hardship and worry for most Americans. This was the era just before television. Radio was the main event where families sat around their radios in the evening listening to their favorite entertainers. There was no entertainer bigger than Kate Smith. Kate was a plus size and the popular phrase “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” is deference to her.
Kate was patriotic and loved America. It hurt her seeing fellow Americans depressed and afraid of what the next day would bring. She had hope for America and faith in her fellow Americans. Desiring to cheer them up she asked the famous American song-writer, Irving Berlin, author of White Christmas, to write a song that would make Americans feel good about their country. When Kate described what she was looking for Berlin said he had just the song written but never published 22 years before, way back in 1917. Kate worked on it with her studio orchestra. She and Irving Berlin were not sure how the song would be received by the public, but both agreed they would not take any profits from God Bless America . Any profits would go to the Boy Scouts of America.
The video starts out with Kate Smith coming into the radio studio with the orchestra and an audience. She introduces the new song and starts singing. After the first couple verses, with her voice in the background still singing, scenes are shown from the 1940 movie, You’re In The Army Now. At the 4:20 mark of the video you see a young actor, Ronald Reagan, sitting in an office reading a paper. Actor George Murphy is also in the scene as the father, and many others of the era including George Tobias.
Years later, God Bless America stirs patriotic feelings and pride throughout the country. Doubtful,when Kate Smith went looking for a song to raise the spirits of her fellow Americans did she realized just how successful the results would be.
Many people don’t know there’s a lead into the song, so here’s the entire song as originally sung.