America was still in the grips of a terrible economic depression in 1940. Hitler was taking over Europe, and Americans were afraid we'd have to go to war. It was a time of hardship and worry for most average Americans.
This was the era just before TV, when radio shows were huge, and American families sat around their radios in the evenings, listening to their favorite entertainers, and no entertainer of that era was bigger than Kate Smith. She was the biggest star of her time.
Kate was also very patriotic. It hurt her to see her fellow Americans so depressed and afraid of what the next day might bring. She had hope for America and faith in her fellow countrymen. She wanted to do something to cheer them up, so she asked the famous American songwriter Irving Berlin to write a song that would make Americans feel good again about their country.
When she described what she was looking for, he said he had just the song for her. He went to his files and found a song that he had written, but never published, 22 years before.
He gave it to Kate Smith and she worked on it with her studio orchestra. She and Irving Berlin were not sure how the song would be received by the public, but both agreed they would not take any profits from the song; any profits would go to the Boy Scouts of America. Over the years, the Boy Scouts have received millions of dollars in royalties from this song.
The name of the song that Irving Berlin had written and Kate Smith had sung was “God Bless America,” which she introduced in the 1940 movie, "You're In the Army Now." One of the young actors in that movie was Ronald Reagan, who was sitting in an office, reading a paper.
Frank Sinatra considered Kate Smith the best singer of her time, and said when he and a million other guys first heard her sing "God Bless America" on the radio, they all pretended to have dust in their eyes as they wiped away a tear or two.
To this day, “God Bless America” stirs our patriotic feelings and pride in our country. Back in 1940, when Kate Smith went looking for a song to raise the spirits of her fellow Americans, I doubt she realized just how successful the results would be for Americans during those years of hardship and worry, and for many generations of Americans to follow.
Now that you know the story of this song, hopefully it will again stir something inside your soul, I hope you will treasure it even more during these troubled times of our country.
May the song bring peace within. May you trust that we are exactly where we are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are.
Hopefully the song will settle within your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise the Lord, and love America. It is there for each and every one of us.
To reach Ted W. Stillwell send e-mail to Ted@blueandgrey.com or call him at 816-896-3592.