44¢ Kate Smith
Issue Date: May 27, 2010
City: New York, NY
During World War I, composer Irving Berlin wrote a song for an Army show. Berlin tossed it into a trunk when producers called it “too patriotic.” It remained there for twenty years, until Kate Smith’s manager asked Berlin for a song to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of World War I.
On November 11, 1938, Smith (1907-86) sang God Bless America, Land That I Love on her weekly radio show. The song lifted a nation weary of depression, and became a rallying cry during World War II. A movement began to make the song America’s national anthem. Smith rejected the notion, but performed the song at War Bond rallies, raising over $600 million.
Although Smith starred on the radio and television, appeared in two films and recorded almost 3,000 songs, she is best remembered for God Bless America, Land That I Love. Late in her life, an interesting association began between her stirring performances and professional sports. The Philadelphia Flyers hockey team invited Smith to sing at important games after her performance of the tune was tied to victories, and the New York Yankees play the song during the seventh-inning stretch at their home games.
Berlin and Smith donated all royalties from God Bless America, Land That I Love to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America, including money collected today.