God Bless America–a New Year’s Prayer

I espouse the cause of human unity and am inclined to eschew anything that promotes nationalism, sectarian attitudes and class separation. The 1940s America that I grew up in was a place where children were taught that Americans adhered to a higher standard of humanistic values and tolerance than was the global norm. But the America of my adulthood has been greatly disappointing in that regard. Perhaps that is why I sobbed as I read this story and listened once again to Kate Smith sing this song.

My New Year’s prayer is that America will once again find its way–to set for itself a higher standard of peace and fellowship and lead by example, not by force. –t.h.g.

From an anonymous source:

You may or may not know the history of this song…
Frank Sinatra considered Kate Smith the best singer of her time and said that when he  and a million other guys first heard her sing “God Bless America” on the radio, they all pretended to have dust in their eyes as they wiped away a tear or two.
Here are the facts… The link at the bottom will take you to a video showing the  very first public singing of “GOD BLESS AMERICA”. But before you watch it, you should also know the story behind the first public showing of the song.
The  time was 1940. America was still in a terrible economic depression. Hitler was  taking over Europe and Americans were afraid we’d have to go to war. It was a  time of hardship and worry for most Americans.
This was the era just  before TV, when radio shows were HUGE, and American families sat around their radios in the evenings, listening to their favorite entertainers, and no  entertainer of that era was bigger than Kate Smith.
Yes, Kate was also large. A “Plus Size: as we now say and the popular phrase still used today is in deference to her.
Kate Smith might not have made it big in the age of TV, but with her voice coming over the radio, she was the biggest star of her time.
Kate was also patriotic. It hurt 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 American song-writer, Irving Berlin  (who also wrote “White Christmas”) and asked him to write a song that would make  Americans feel good again about their country. When she described what she was looking for, he said he had just the song for her.
He went to his files and found a song that he had written, but never published, 22 years before – way  back in 1917. He gave it to her and she 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. All profits would go to the Boy Scouts of America. Over the years, the  Boy Scouts have received millions of dollars in royalties from this song.
This video starts out with Kate Smith coming into the radio studio with the orchestra and an audience. She introduces the new song for the very first time 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 in the movie, sitting in an office, reading a paper.  It’s Ronald Reagan.
To this day, God Bless America stirs our patriotic feelings and pride in our country. Back in 1940, when Kate went looking for a song to raise the spirits of her fellow Americans, I doubt whether she realized just how successful the results would be  for her fellow Americans during those years of hardship and worry….. and for  many generations of Americans to follow.
Now that you know the story of the song, I hope you’ll enjoy  and treasure it even more.
Many  people don’t know there’s a lead-in to the song since it usually starts with “God Bless America ….” So here’s the entire song as originally sung:


2 responses to “God Bless America–a New Year’s Prayer

  1. “God bless America!”… A great song making any heart beat with a universal feeling of love for one’s own country, and thereby provoking all best human emotions independent of belonging to any nation. All this also thanks to the brilliant human phenomenon of the singer!

  2. P.S. I, a Russian, begin to sincerely love America after listening to this Song! Will America, in one hundred years, begin to love my Russia… who is not at all represented by her current establishment but by her Vertinsky, Rachmaninov, Shalapin, Lomonosov and Starovoitova?

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