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God Bless America

posted Sep 25, 2016, 12:18 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Sep 25, 2016, 12:18 PM ]
Irving Berlin first wrote this song in 1918 while serving in the U.S. Army at Camp Upton in Yaphank, NY; but decided that it did not fit in a revue called Yip Yip Yaphank, so he set it aside. But with the rise of Adolf Hitler in 1938, Irving Berlin, who was Jewish and had arrived in America from Russia at the age of five, felt it was time to revive it. Kate Smith introduced it on her radio show, and it became her signature song. Berlin penned an introduction that is now rarely heard, but which Smith always used:

"While the storm clouds gather far across the sea 
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free 
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, 
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer." 

Did you know Berlin gave the royalties of the song to “The God Bless America Fund” for redistribution to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in New York City?

During the 1960s, the song was used in the Civil Rights Movement as well as at labor rallies. And by the late 1960s through the early 1970s, it became a staple of nationwide sporting events, even becoming a “good luck charm” for the Philadelphia Flyers.

On the evening of the September 11 terrorist attacks fifteen years ago, during a live television broadcast featuring addresses by House and Senate leaders, members of the United States Congress broke out into a spontaneous verse of "God Bless America" on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Then ten nights later, on September 21
st, Celine Dion performed the song on the TV special America: A Tribute to Heroes. A month later, Sony Music Entertainment released a benefit album called God Bless America, which featured Dion singing the song. This album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and became the first charity album to reach the top since USA for Africa's “We Are the World” in 1985. At the same time, country music artist LeAnn Rimes rereleased her 1997 cover of the song.