This is the story behind “God Bless America.” This basic one-verse song became an overnight hit, and a optimistic song as war threatened. “It’s no a patriotic song,” composer Irving Berlin said in a 1940 interview, “but an expression the gratitude for what this nation has done because that its citizens, of what house really means.” Today, countless Americans think about “God Bless America” an unofficial national anthem the 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 an ar of Russia known as Siberia. When he was around five, an anti-Jewish mob destroyed his family’s home, and also the Balines collection out for America. They settled on new York’s Lower east Side.

Irving Berlin"s father passed away when he to be eight, and also “Izzy” walk to work-related selling papers to aid support his family. As a young teen, he began singing in saloons and at some allude taught himself piano. He began copying the musical formats of the day, and also developed an tremendous instinct for developing popular melody that people loved to sing. A to press error ~ above a published item of sheet music left him through the name Irving Berlin, and also that to be the name he brought as he wrote tune after song. In 1911, he wrote his first huge dance hit, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”

After that, Berlin’s career took off like a rocket. That wrote phase musicals and film scores, and also produced struggle after hit. Countless are still sung today, including: “White Christmas,” “Blue Skies,” “Always,” “There’s No organization Like display Business,” “Heat Wave,” “I’ve obtained My Love to keep Me Warm,”—and “God Bless America.”

When describing his goal as a songwriter, Berlin said: “My ambitious is to reach the love of the typical American…that huge intermediate crew i m sorry is the actual soul of the country….My public is the actual people.”

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Kate Smith, among the great singers of her day, had asked for a new number for her radio show. The year to be 1938, and also she was looking for something fresh to note the 20th anniversary of the finish of the good War, what would later on be called people War I.Irving Berlin had actually composer’s block.

Berlin feeling the urgency come deliver. He had recently went back from Europe, where catastrophe to be brewing. Nazi Germany, led by Adolf Hitler, to be growing an ext powerful and aggressive and also seemed to be preparing for war. However Berlin wasn’t focused on writing a get-America-ready-for-war song. He wanted to create something come celebrate America together a special location to live.

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

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Reviving and also Revising a forgotten Song

In 1918, Sergeant Irving Berlin to be stationed at Camp Upton in Yaphank, on lengthy Island, new York. Berlin was already a successful songwriter, currently a draftee, and his commanding officer enlisted the to compose a music revue to assist raise money for a new building. The an outcome was Yip, Yip, Yaphank, a light-hearted music revue about army life featuring music, skits, and military drills. The show produced one that the access time of world War I, “Oh! just how I hate to acquire 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 written another song for the revue, however had reduced it native the show. He assumed the lyrics were also sappy. Therefore “God Bless America” waited in the trunk for 2 decades.


Then Kate Smith come calling.Now, Berlin looked end his previously work and rapidly started rewriting and revising. He had actually less than 2 weeks to gain it all set for she performance.

Here is just how the 1918 version had actually read:

God Bless America, land that i loveStand next to herAnd guide herTo the ideal with the light from aboveMake she victorious ~ above land and foamGod Bless America, my residence sweet home.

Berlin knew he had actually to change the line To the best with the light from above. “The Right” in national politics had pertained to mean conservative politics groups. He wanted a tune that carried Americans together, not collection Americans apart. And also he changed Make her 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 since.

God bless America, soil that ns loveStand alongside her and also guide herThrough the night with the light from aboveFrom the mountains,To the prairies,To the s white v foamGod bless America,My house sweet home.

Smith sang the tune as the present closer on she live nationwide broadcast that night. Berlin’s phone immediately began ringing off the hook. Everyone wanted to know where they might get the music.

After that, Smith practically always contained the tune in her weekly show, and also it came to be her trademark throughout a career the spanned five decades. She also included a quick poem-prelude the Berlin had actually written:

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

Storm clouds were without doubt gathering over Europe. Less than a year after the debut the “God Bless America,” Germany’s war machine rolled into Poland, igniting human being 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 till the Japanese assaulted Pearl harbor on December 7, 1941. But as “God Bless America” prospered in popularity, many Americans already feared that it was simply a issue of time prior to the U.S. Would be called to fight.

During world War II, Berlin toured through his display This is the military to progressive money for the U.S. War effort. “God Bless America” was among the featured songs.

The God Bless America Foundation

When it involved “God Bless America,” Irving Berlin and also Kate Smith put their money wherein their mouths were. They donated all the royalties from the hit tune to the Boy and also Girl Scouts the America with the God Bless America Foundation. That arrangement is tho in impact today.

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Other wartime songs would remind americans what they to be fighting against. Berlin’s “God Bless America” reminded castle what they were fighting for.