Sunday, January 20, 2013

God Bless America



Some background: After leaving the Navy in 1964 I decided Hotel/Motel management was the career for me. After attending school I interviewed and was hired by J Willard Marriott as part of his fledgling three motel chain. I began working at the Marriott Twin Bridges in Washington DC. I soon found out one of our permanent guests at that time was Miss Kate Smith and on more than one occasion she would show up at the desk late at night just to visit. I will say this is one of the finest ladies I've ever had the privilege of meeting. When I was sent the email below the other day I thought how timely it was that this showed up just prior to the inauguration. 
The link below will take you to a video showing the very first public singing of "GOD BLESS AMERICA".
But before you watch, you should also know the story 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.
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 very 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 (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 Kate Smith 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. Any 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.
Frank Sinatra considered Kate Smith the best singer of her time, and said 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.

To this day, God Bless America stirs our patriotic feelings and pride in our country. Back in 1940, when Kate Smith went looking for a song to raise the spirits of her fellow Americans, I doubt 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 will enjoy it and treasure it even more.
NOW HERE IS HOW "GOD BLESS AMERICA" SHOULD BE SUNG!
Click below

15 comments:

  1. I sent that email to my dad. He loves it. He said he played the video several times in a row. It brought brought back such great memories for him. She was a special lady in deed.

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    1. I'm glad your dad enjoyed it. She was indeed special.

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  2. Thank you, John. Hearing Kate Smith singing that song stirs my heart every time. Seeing it sung made it even more special.

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  3. I was reading my blogs, and Joe was watching the Austrailian opens when I started reading your blog. We put the TV on mute and played the whole thing!!! Always love to hear Kate sing that song. We are going to the Portland Symphony in a little bit, SWING,SWING, SWING. All songs from the 40s and we are sure hoping God Bless America will be included in their performance today.

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    1. Sounds like great afternoon at the symphony coming your way. Enjoy.

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  4. Thanks for the story, the link and the memories. We have always enjoyed staying at Marriott hotels whenever we can. I started doing that when I worked for Weyerhaeuser, and had to travel a lot. Now that we're in Therapy, I find that much more to my liking. It suits me and it's helpful to my mental health. Can't beat that. Enjoy the NFL games today. That Patriots game should be cold and windy...good one to watch with the heat turned up!

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    1. Busy watching SF/Atlanta trade scores. Indiana already won so my day is good.

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  5. Wonderful video...love to hear Kate Smith sing God Bless America. I can remember we used to sing it in grade school. Wouldn't be allowed now I suppose but still a great song and great memories.

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    1. Too many things aren't allowed in school now, unfortunately.

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  6. John - your post is the perfect one for me to read after writing mine for today. Thank you. I have always loved Kate Smith.

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