This is the story behind “God Bless America.” This simple one-verse song ended up being an overnight hit, and also a optimistic song as battle threatened. “It’s not a patriotic song,” composer Irving Berlin said in a 1940 interview, “but an expression that gratitude for what this nation has done because that its citizens, of what house really means.” Today, numerous Americans think about “God Bless America” one unofficial nationwide anthem that the joined States.

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Irving Berlin (1888–1989)

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The life the Irving Berlin is a uniquely American success story. He to be born Israel Baline in the Jewish village of Tyumen, in a harsh region of Russia well-known as Siberia. Once he was around five, one anti-Jewish mob destroyed his family’s home, and the Balines collection out because that America. They settled on new York’s Lower eastern Side.

Irving Berlin"s father passed away when he to be eight, and also “Izzy” go to work-related selling papers to help support his family. Together a young teen, he began singing in saloons and also at some allude taught self piano. He started copying the musical styles of the day, and developed an tremendous instinct for developing popular tunes that human being loved come sing. A print error on a published piece of paper music left him through the name Irving Berlin, and also that was the name he brought as that wrote song after song. In 1911, he created his an initial huge dance hit, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”

After that, Berlin’s career take it off favor a rocket. That wrote phase musicals and film scores, and also produced hit after hit. Plenty of are quiet sung today, including: “White Christmas,” “Blue Skies,” “Always,” “There’s No organization Like present Business,” “Heat Wave,” “I’ve got My Love to store Me Warm,”—and “God Bless America.”

When explicate his goal together a songwriter, Berlin said: “My ambition is to reach the love of the median American…that substantial intermediate crew i m sorry is the real soul that the country….My public is the actual people.”

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Kate Smith, among the great singers of she day, had asked for a brand-new number for her radio show. The year to be 1938, and she was trying to find something fresh to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of the an excellent War, what would later be called human being War I.Irving Berlin had composer’s block.

Berlin feel the urgency to deliver. He had recently changed from Europe, wherein catastrophe to be brewing. Nazi Germany, led by Adolf Hitler, was growing much more powerful and aggressive and seemed to it is in preparing for war. However Berlin wasn’t focused on composing a get-America-ready-for-war song. He want to develop something come celebrate America together a special ar to live.

Then the remembered a tune he had drafted year earlier. He pulled the end an old trunk and also dusted turn off the 20-year-old manuscript.

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Reviving and Revising a forgotten Song

In 1918, Sergeant Irving Berlin was stationed in ~ Camp Upton in Yaphank, on lengthy Island, brand-new York. Berlin was already a successful songwriter, currently a draftee, and also his commanding officer enlisted that to write a musical revue to aid raise money because that a new building. The an outcome was Yip, Yip, Yaphank, a light-hearted musical revue about army life special music, skits, and also military drills. The show created one the the access time of human being War I, “Oh! just how I hate to obtain Up in the Morning,” a comic song around a soldier’s reluctance to answer reveille, the army’s early AM alarm clock played on a bugle.

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Berlin had actually written an additional song for the revue, however had reduced it from the show. He believed the lyrics were too sappy. Therefore “God Bless America” waited in that trunk for two decades.


Then Kate Smith come calling.Now, Berlin looked over his earlier work and rapidly began rewriting and also revising. He had actually less than two weeks to acquire it all set for she performance.

Here is just how the 1918 version had actually read:

God Bless America, soil that ns loveStand alongside herAnd guide herTo the best with the light from aboveMake her victorious ~ above land and foamGod Bless America, my residence sweet home.

Berlin knew he had to readjust the line To the appropriate with the light from above. “The Right” in politics had concerned mean conservative politics groups. He want a song that carried Americans together, not collection Americans apart. And also he adjusted Make she victorious…since it suggested military conquest, quite than the “peace song” he to be shooting for.

The result was the song most American school children have learned by heart ever before since.

God bless America, land that ns loveStand next to her and also guide herThrough the night with the irradiate from aboveFrom the mountains,To the prairies,To the ocean white v foamGod bless America,My home sweet home.

Smith sang the track as the display closer on her live nationwide broadcast the night. Berlin’s phone immediately began ringing turn off the hook. Everyone wanted to understand where they might get the music.

After that, Smith virtually always included the track in she weekly show, and it came to be her trademark throughout a career that spanned 5 decades. She also included a quick poem-prelude the Berlin had written:

While the storm clouds gather far throughout the sea,Let united state swear allegiance come a land that’s free,Let us all be grateful for a land for this reason fair,As us raise our voices in solemn prayer.

Storm clouds were indeed gathering end Europe. Less than a year after the debut of “God Bless America,” Germany’s war machine rolled into Poland, igniting people War II in Europe. (The Japanese had already invaded China two years earlier, beginning the war in Asia.) The United says would not officially sign up with the war until the Japanese assaulted Pearl harbor on December 7, 1941. Yet as “God Bless America” flourished in popularity, most Americans currently feared that it was simply a issue of time prior to the U.S. Would certainly be referred to as to fight.

During human being War II, Berlin toured v his show This is the military to advanced money because that the U.S. Battle effort. “God Bless America” was one of the featured songs.

The God Bless America Foundation

When it came to “God Bless America,” Irving Berlin and Kate Smith put their money whereby their mouths were. Castle donated every the royalties from the hit track to the Boy and Girl Scouts the America v the God Bless America Foundation. That setup is still in result today.

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Other wartime songs would certainly remind american what they were fighting against. Berlin’s “God Bless America” reminded them what they were fighting for.