link below at the bottom 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
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 was also large in size, and the popular phrase still used today
is in deference to her, "Ain't over till the fat lady sings". 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
songwriter, Irving Berlin (also wrote "White Christmas") and asked
him to write a song that would make Americans feel good again about
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. (And the other guy is
actor George Murphy who later became a US Senator (R)-CA)
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.
God Bless America