Archive for the ‘Irving Berlin’ Tag

Irving Berlin’s Gift   Leave a comment

Irving BerlinThe song was written in 1918, and then set aside.  Berlin thought it was “not appropriate” for the project he was working on.

It sat on a shelf for 20 years.

In 1938, Berlin wanted to find a song that properly expressed the peaceful sentiments that he felt America needed to hear.  Kate Smith, who was perhaps the most popular American singer of her day, wanted a new song … and after trying to write  a new one, Berlin remembered the song from 20 years ago.  He asked his assistant to get it out of a trunk.

He tweaked a few lines, and it was the closing number on Smith’s radio show on November 10, 1938.  It was an instant sensation, and Smith continued to sing it every week on her show.  It was read into the Congressional record.  There was a movement to make it our new national anthem … that Smith discouraged.  But the popularity of the song was immense, and Smith continued to sing it.

The song was “God Bless America.”

Irving Berlin donated all his royalties, in perpetuity, to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America.  He especially wanted those royalties to go to the areas in greatest need, and the money has gone to the New York Area Councils recently.

In the 70s, the song achieved a new level of popularity … as a hockey anthem.  The Philadelphia Flyers adopted it as a good luck charm, and played it before many games … on their march to the Stanley Cup.  They repeated that feat — along with a live performance by Smith — when they won the 1975 Stanley Cup. That was great for hockey, and great for Scouting.

Here’s a clip that recreates the national premiere of the song on Kate Smith’s # 1 nationally radio show.  This dramatization was a part of “The is the Army,” a 1943 movie starring Ronald Reagan!


On Kate Smith‘s website

New York Times

Los Angeles Times