God Bless America

Brooke Ohnmeis, Jessica Bolte, Justine Woofter, Justin Haun

Historical Background

"God Bless America," by Irving Berlin was originally composed for a World War I musical that was for the soldiers going off to war. The song got its name because of Berlin's mother. She escaped the Russian pogroms in 1893 and Berlin said that he always remembers his mother saying, "God Bless America!" The song got most of its attention after Kate Smith, one of the most popular female vocalists. She visited Berlin's studio and asked for a song that was both patriotic and reverent. Some of the lyrics were changed and on November 11th, 1938, which is now Veterans' Day, Smith performed the song to her audience.

God Bless America, First Radio performance, Armistice Day November 10, 1938, Kate Smith

Origin of Composer

Irving Berlin was born in Russia on May 11th, 1888. He died on September 22nd, 1989. Berlin specialized in Broadway musicals and show tunes. In 1918 he was drafted in to the army, which put a halt on his music career. However, in the army Berlin composed a song called "Oh How I Hate Getting Up In the Morning." The song became very popular within the camp and made its way up to the camp officers. Once they heard the song they told Berlin that instead of having to get up early in the morning that he would write and compose music for an all-soldier comedy show Yip! Yip! Yaphank! These series of events led Berlin into composing one of the most known songs "God Bless America."

Irving Berlin's Use for "God Bless America"

Even though, Berlin created this song in 1918, he didn’t publish it until 1938. In 1938 he had revised some of the lyrics and the music and published “God Bless America.” He created the song as a prayer to the United States, that they may win and beat Hitler. The prayer was that the U.S. would end Hitler; therefore, ending the Nazi cruelty towards Jewish people.

Song Transition

In today's day we use the song frequently in notable public performances such as at the beginning of hockey, baseball, football games etc. It is also used for government. "God Bless America" is the official campaign song for F.D.R. (represents cultural and religious tolerance). The song played on T.V. broadcast on Sept. 11th, 2011. Congress broke out spontaneously in God Bless America. July 21st, 2011, it played as NASA's final wakeup call for the space shuttle Atlantis, capping 30-year shuttle program

Congress sings "God Bless America" - 2001.09.11

Fun Facts

  • Inspired by "This Land Is Your Land"
  • Irvin Berlin was Jewish. Because of this the KKK and Nazi-affiliated German American Bunds boycotted the song because he had no right to incorporate God in his song. Nazi's believed the song was an anthem for Jewish conspiracy for control.
  • Kate Smith version is the well known recorded version of the song in today's day