This is the story behind “God Bless America.” This straightforward one-verse song came to be an overnight hit, and a confident song as battle threatened. “It’s no a patriotic song,” composer Irving Berlin stated in a 1940 interview, “but one expression the gratitude for what this country has done because that its citizens, of what house really means.” Today, many Americans take into consideration “God Bless America” one unofficial nationwide anthem that the unified States.

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Irving Berlin (1888–1989)

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The life of Irving Berlin is a uniquely American success story. He was 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 damaged his family’s home, and the Balines collection out for America. They resolved on brand-new York’s Lower eastern Side.

Irving Berlin"s father passed away when he was eight, and “Izzy” walk to work-related selling papers to assist support his family. As a young teen, he started singing in saloons and at some point taught self piano. He began copying the musical formats of the day, and developed an tremendous instinct for developing popular melody that civilization loved to sing. A print error on a published item of paper music left him v the name Irving Berlin, and also that to be the surname he carried as he wrote track after song. In 1911, he wrote his very first huge dance hit, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”

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

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

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

Berlin felt the urgency to deliver. He had recently reverted from Europe, wherein catastrophe was brewing. Nazi Germany, led through Adolf Hitler, was growing more powerful and also aggressive and also seemed to be preparing because that war. Yet Berlin wasn’t focused on creating a get-America-ready-for-war song. He want to produce something come celebrate America together a special location to live.

Then the remembered a track he had drafted years earlier. He pulled the end an old trunk and also dusted turn 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 long Island, brand-new York. Berlin was currently a successful songwriter, now a draftee, and his commanding officer enlisted him to write a music revue to help raise money because that a brand-new building. The result was Yip, Yip, Yaphank, a light-hearted music revue around army life special music, skits, and military drills. The show developed one the the hits of civilization War I, “Oh! just how I dislike to get Up in the Morning,” a comic song around a soldier’s reluctance come answer reveille, the army’s early on AM alarm clock play 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 also sappy. So “God Bless America” waited in that trunk for 2 decades.


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

Here is just how the 1918 version had read:

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

Berlin knew he had to change the heat To the appropriate with the light from above. “The Right” in politics had come to mean conservative politics groups. He want a track that lugged Americans together, not collection Americans apart. And also he adjusted Make she victorious…since it suggested military conquest, rather than the “peace song” he was shooting for.

The an outcome was the song most American school kids have learned through heart ever before since.

God bless America, floor that i loveStand next to her and also guide herThrough the night through the irradiate from aboveFrom the mountains,To the prairies,To the ocean white through foamGod bless America,My residence sweet home.

Smith sang the track as the show closer on her live national broadcast that night. Berlin’s phone immediately began ringing turn off the hook. Everyone want to understand where they could get the music.

After that, Smith almost always contained the track in she weekly show, and it became her trademark during a career that spanned five decades. She also added a quick poem-prelude that Berlin had actually written:

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

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

During people War II, Berlin toured v his present This is the military to advanced money for the U.S. Battle effort. “God Bless America” was one of the featured songs.

The God Bless America Foundation

When it involved “God Bless America,” Irving Berlin and also Kate Smith put their money where their mouths were. Lock donated every the royalties from the hit song to the Boy and also Girl Scouts of America through the God Bless America Foundation. That plan is quiet in impact today.

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