It’s one of Irving Berlin’s most famous and also beloved songs, and so top in this country regarding resonate prefer a nationwide anthem. However one i beg your pardon is much more singable than our main one, and also with an ext understandable lyrics.

However there is a unique facet to this track which is hardly known and rarely mentioned: a vital part that the melody is not entirely original to Berlin, and also comes native an i can not qualify source. Even if it is his usage of it was intentional or not is uncertain.

Much an ext on the to follow, But very first some history:

Irving Berlin was born Israel Baline in Russia in 1883. Everyone referred to as him Izzy. He and his family pertained to America once he was 5 in 1888. Once he to be 18, prefer all Jews in show-biz, that Americanized his surname so regarding be included. But he never hid the reality that the was not born here, and also the song is an extremely much the true expression of his gratitude because that his life in America.

Unlike many songwriters then who wrote just lyrics or music, Berlin walk both. From early on, he had actually an ingenious knack for creating songs, also though his restrictions as a musican were pronounced; ; he could only beat in one key on piano.

(Which was not C, as part assume, yet F#. Years later on he obtained a transposing piano, so he could readjust keys while staying in the same fingering – the black notes, essentially.)




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Irving Berlin performing “God Bless America” top top the Ed Sullivan Show, May, 1968.

Yet prefer all songwriters working within such a short kind with only twelve tones of music, he master the arts of transcending limitations, i beg your pardon is at the heart of this art. Even working only in one key, he can write every sort of song. Sometimes he’d compose an approximation of a song. As soon as ragtime became the radical craze of the day, as popularized by Scott Joplin and also other black color composers, Berlin acquired in on the fad by writing several hit songs with ‘ragtime’ in your titles, return musically they weren’t ragtime in ~ all. Which didn’t matter. They were hits, though, such together “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” the best of castle all.


It’s true that a good many that his famous songs were created to it is in hits, but were no directly connected to the songwriter. Phillip Roth experienced this as pure brilliance, and also wrote that Berlin to be the ultimate Jewish genius because he take it the blood out of Easter, and also made it about fashion (in his tune “Easter Parade,”) and also took Christ the end of Christmas and made it around snow. (“White Christmas.”)

So if he had no actual attachment come the idea of Easter or Christmas, his feelings about America were genuine. It provided him the life he might never have had in Russia. His knowledge of the definition of America come the “huddled masses” that came right here for a much better life was direct and also real. He became not just a wealthy, effective man, he to be famous and also beloved. That truth, because that which gratitude is expressed, is woven right into the fabric of the song. He created it in 1918 at the age of 25, some 20 years after getting here in America. Through then, he was in the American Army, cultivate for people War i at Camp Upton in Yaphank, brand-new York. But even in the army, that was largely busy writing songs, and also wrote a review dubbed Yip Yip Yaphank. It was while composing songs because that that display that he composed the very first version that “God Bless America.”Perhaps sensing this tune was intended for other purposes, and elected come not usage it in the show. Gift a savvy songwriter, the knew that rhyming ‘America’ would certainly be problematic. For this reason he structured the tune so that the phrase doesn’t finish with the title, yet with a word easier to luck – ‘home.’ – “God Bless America my residence sweet home.” (It’s the same reason why Sammy Cahn, as soon as writing the text to a song about Chicago – also a difficult rhyme – supplied the much more easily rhymable title, “My type of Town.”For Berlin to set up the expression “Home sweet home” though was easier, but still offered couple of options. He required a rhymed native to head it in the song, and resolved on ‘foam.’: From the hills to the prairies/To the oceans what through foamGod bless America/My house sweet homeHe folds the nicely into the phrasing and also the melody, so it goes by there is no calling lot attention come itself. Although when one thinks of America, ‘foam’ is not among the an initial words that pertains to mind. That a set-up, but done artfully enough to conceal its function. It’s amazing to view the previously version that the song completed in ~ Yaphank, in i m sorry this famous set-up line was still in formation. Originally, he had actually “Make she victorious/ ~ above land and also foam, God bless America…” that also readjusted this line, which initially was “Stand alongside her and guide she to the right with the light from above.” To avoid the impression that ‘to the right’ was a political suggestion, the revised it. Written during WWI, v the rise of Hitler in the late-30s, he revised it as a prayer for peace, and also was popularized by the singer Kate Smith, who performed the on she radio show and also recorded it. Because that this he composed a brand-new introduction, which is rarely offered now however which she sang always: “While the storm clouds conference far across the sea Let us swear allegiance come a soil that’s complimentary / Let us all be grateful for a land for this reason fair, / as we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.” it was she rendition of the song at this time – the an extremely start the what ended up being WWII – the forever changed the condition – from hit come standard and to its current status as among America’s most beloved anthems.




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Kate Smith, “God Bless America” 1938.

This “habit” influenced “God Bless America” profoundly. In what has become one the America’s most iconic, virtually sacred, melodies. Remarkably, the opening six-note melodic phrase of the song (on “God bless America…”) is similar to a melodic i in a novelty track from 1906 about a Jewish musician recognized as the “Jewish Sousa.” That track was created in 1906 by three Irish songwriters, Bert Fitzgibbon, Jack Drislane, and also Theodore Morse. The name of the song that seeded “God Bless America”?“When Mose with His sleep Leads the Band.”It was videotaped by Collins & Harlan, who were quite popular then at the dawning that the recorded era of music.This is no joke! the is wherein the root of “God Bless America” space planted: In a track by a Russian immigrant get loan the tune of a hoax song about a Jewish musician written by three Irish songwriters dubbed “When Mose v His sleep Leads the Band.”It adds a totality other measurement to “God Bless America.” and yet the perfect, because that this is the country we space in, a soil of constantly transforming diversity, and also our renowned songs reflect this diversity while additionally unifying us. Berlin to be 18 then as soon as the tune was a hit, working as a singing waiter at the Pelham coffee shop in new York’s Chinatown. Introduce to the songwriter’s propensity to use melodies from other songs, Rosen wrote that “this is what walk in 1917, once he sat under to write a patriotic tune, and also plopped the precise melodic phrase that opens up the `When Mose v His Nose’ chorus right into his new song.” “Listen to Collins & Harlan’s weather-beaten 100-year-old recording, and also it’s unmistakable: the 6 notes that accompany the lyric `Abie then starts to play` space instantly recognizable as the opening strains the `God Bless America.’ it’s an irony come relish, and not a bad metaphor for the alchemy that Jewish-American musical assimilation.”

The record of that tune is below. That is at specifically 0.41 – which starts the chorus – that the renowned six-note expression we recognize begins.


“When Mose through His nose Leads The Band” in ~ 0.41 precisely is the melodic expression that resulted in “God Bless America.”
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“Be Careful, It’s mine Heart,” is the tune Irving Berlin sings during an interview in Berlin’s new York office, July 16, 1942. Besides appearing in the army relief show, “This Is The Army” which he wrote and also produced, the provided composer has actually written several new songs for a movie. (AP Photo/Murray Becker)