Saturday, November 11, 2006
GOD BLESS AMERICA SUNG BY CONGRESS ON SEPT 11th
Kate Smith was my all time favorite singer of all time-=bar none. I became enchanted with her singing voice in 1952 as a child living in San Gabriel, California and I bought every record that she ever made. The picture at the left of her is taken from her still photos of her NBC afternoon television program that ran daily from 1950 to 1954. If you were a performer, there were two programs you wanted to perform on. The first was the "Ed Sullivan" show and the second was "The Kate Smith Hour". If you landed either or both of these shows -- YOU had "arrived". She was then as she was throughout her life an incredible performer. She was a composer's best friend because she could deliver any song precisely as the song writer had intended. On this Veterans Day, we celebrate the great end of World War I and the bravery of every American soldier who has fought and perhaps died for the cause of freedom. But it also the anniversary of Kate Smith introducing "God Bless America" to the world on network radio in 1938. The song itself goes back to 1918 when it was written for a patriotic revue being written and produced by composer Irving Berlin. Berlin decided against using it and it sat in Berlin's "song trunk for twenty years. Until one evening when Berlin heard Kate Smith sing on the radio. Well that was it! He dug this golden classic and started to revise it and Kate was shown the song. She loved it and so did the American Public. At one time, it was favored to become the National Anthem and gained fame all over again on the afternoon of September 11th, 2001 when the members of Congress reacting to the great attack upon our country that morning were gathered around the base of the capitol building . The speech was made and then out of pure spontaneity they all began to sing "God Bless America". Of course, not everyone in the country loved the song. The great folk singer Woodie Guthrie actually wrote "This Land Is Your Land" in protest to the schmaltziness of the song itself. Irving Berlin donated the song's royalties to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, and even today, it represents a great deal of their annual budget money. My arranger, Tim Doran actually accompanied Kate Smith for her last rendition of the song for a bicentennial celebration in 1976 in Dana Point She was very impressed by his rendition and told him so in a beautiful note. The Philadelphia Flyer's hockey team has erected a statue of Kate outside their stadium. Every time that they played a recording of Kate's rendition of the song, they seemed to win: a record breaking 169 times at home in five years. There are only two performers that could hit the last note of "The Impossible Dream" as it was composed by Mitch Leigh for the Broadway show "Man of La Mancha". The first was the show's original star, Richard Kiley. The second was Kate Smith. She was simply amazing. She will always and forever be a part of my heart's affection! She was a legend!