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Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I was set to post on biofuels today, but David Ikegami sent me some information about Kate Smith's "God Bless America," and it occurred to me that, perhaps, America is, today, in the same uncomfortable position it was in 1938, when Hitler was threatening freedom and the world economy was still in the throes of the Great Depression that began in 1929.  The Hitler of today is the double hammer of Peak Oil and Global Warming, and our economy seems precariously wondering whether to double dip or not.  The PIIGS in Europe will no doubt determine that fate, but I thought further, and growing up with this song, for it was even part of my high school graduation ceremony, not really knowing the story behind the words and melody.

Thirty-one year old (yes, she looked a lot older--the You Tube video is coming) Katheryn Elizabeth Smith, 5' 10" and 235 pounds, whose physique inspired "it ain't begun 'til the fat lady sings," had her own radio show (where the resident comics were Abbott and Costello and Henny Youngman) in 1938, a few years before I was born, and, like me, was concerned about the state of the psyche of the American public.  She wanted to provide an uplifting message for Armistice Day (you probably don't know what this means because Veterans replaced Armistice after World War II), something I've recently been criticized for trying to do in my virtual discussions about saving Planet Earth and Humanity, and went to Irving Berlin for a new song to do just that.  I guess I need to find my Irving Berlin, and maybe that was David Ikegami.  Berlin had written "God Bless America" in 1917, but never published it.  Either he had a terrible sense of what was good, or the timing was perfect.  Anyway, said Berlin to Smith then:

"It’s boastful. It assumes that America is blessed and that God continues to bless it." 

He hated his lyrics.  Well, Kate talked Irvin (who also wrote "There's No Business Like ShowBusiness," "Easter Parade," "White Christmas," and 900 other songs) into it and they subsequently agreed that any profits from GBA would go to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.  Anyone know how much they have gotten so far?  Please comment if you do.

Sung in public for the first time on Armistice Day of 1938 (some reports have the year as 1940, but 1938 is the correct year), it became an instant hit.  In the following video you will see Ronald Reagan, who in 1940, from a clip of "You're in the Army Now," already looked pretty mature.  In 1982, as President, Reagan bestowed on her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Maybe it's because the U.S. Congress on 11September01 sang "God Bless America" on the steps of the Capitol (repeated again to the right on Monday), or Major League Baseball now features it during the seventh inning stretch, GBA has replaced the Star Spangled Banner as America's song.  How interesting that the flip side of Kate's GBA is the SSB.

So, here they are, first, Irving Berlin singing his song on the Ed Sullivan Show, then Kate Smith with the original introduction of God Bless America.

Now that at least a couple of you are hopefully re-invigorated, feel energized to continue to save Planet Earth and Humanity.  Remember, as broken as our government is, as woeful as might be the economy and can add your own few here...the United States of American is the only supreme nation today, and, I would predict, will remain so for the next century at least.  That part about God blessing us is fine and reassuring for some.

The Dow Jones Industrials had almost a 400 point swing today, ending plus 141 at 11,247, with world markets mostly up.  Gold dropped $15/toz to $1824, with the Brent oil at $112/barrel and WTI at $89/barrel.


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