God Bless America ( 2.5 MB .mp3)
Just the mention of her name evokes a warm feeling of nostalgia in the hearts of millions who recall her thrilling renditions of popular ballads and her outgoing personality and infectious laughter. An untiring patriot, Kate Smith was honored by every President from Roosevelt, who called her an "American treasure", to Reagan, who gave her the highest civilian award in the nation, the Medal of Freedom. During the Second World War, she was personally credited with selling six hundred million dollars in Defense Bonds. She has been called the First Lady of Song by her peers. Voted one of the three most beloved and important women of her time, Kate Smith was the very embodiment of the American spirit and an inspiration to millions everywhere. Her popularity and her music transcended a half century, all the way from vaudeville to soft rock. She introduced over six hundred popular songs. More than twenty of her records were million sellers. As a true pioneer in both radio and television, her importance as a public personality is unsurpassed in the annals of broadcasting history. She is undeniably an American original!
After several days of futile attempts to write a new patriotic song, Berlin remembered the one he had written in 1918. He asked his secretary to retrieve it from the trunk, and he made a few changes to the lyrics. One was from "Stand beside her and guide her/ To the right with a light from above" to through the night," since "right wing" and "left wing" had taken on political connotations in the interim. The line "From the mountains to the prairies/To the oceans white with foam" had originally been "From the green fields of Virginia to the gold fields out in Nome", a decided improvement!
Now Kate Smith was the No. I popular songstress in America in 1938, and her weekly Kate Smith Hour was heard by many millions of radio listeners that Thursday, November 10. The shy composer was invited to attend the show, but he declined, opting to listen with a few friends in his office at his music publishing company in New York. Kate sang it as her closing number, after which Berlin's phone began to ring, as people began to ask, 'Where can we get that song that Kate Smith just sang.?" Berlin was so touched by those calls that he decided to attend the rebroadcast three hours later for the west coast audience. At the conclusion of the broadcast, Kate called Irving to the stage and gave him a bearhug that swept him off his feet!