Miss Smith had been in poor health since 1976, when she suffered brain damage as a result of a diabetic coma. In January, her right leg was amputated because of circulatory problems associated with her diabetes, and on May 9, she underwent a mastectomy.But it was the robust and joyful young singer who never took a formal music lesson whose voice became one of the most listened-to by a nation struggling through the Great Depression and World War, still holding fast to an optimism for the future. Everything about Kate Smith was outsized, including Miss Smith herself. She recorded almost 3,000 songs -more than any other popular performer. She introduced more songs than any other performer - over a thousand, of which 600 or so made the hit parade. She made more than 15,000 radio broadcasts and, over the years, received more than 25 million fan letters. At the height of her career, during World War II, she repeatedly was named one of the three or four most popular women in America. No single show-business figure even approached her as a seller of War Bonds during World War II. In one 18-hour stint on the CBS radio network, Miss Smith sold $107 million worth of War Bonds, which were issued by the United States Government to finance the war effort. Her total for a series of marathon broadcasts was over $600 million.
President Roosevelt once introduced her to King George VI of England, saying: ''This is Kate Smith. Miss Smith is America.''
Kate Smith had been a national singing star almost from the outset of her broadcasting career in 1931. But her amazing identification with patriotism and patriotic themes dates from the night of Nov. 11, 1938, when, on her regular daily radio program, she introduced a new song written expressly for her by Irving Berlin - ''God Bless America.'' In a short time, the song supplanted ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' as the nation's most popular patriotic song. There were attempts - all unsuccessful - to adopt it formally as the national anthem.
For a time, Kate Smith had exclusive rights to perform ''God Bless America'' in public. She relinquished that right when it became apparent the song had achieved a significance beyond that of just another new pop tune.Mr. Berlin and Miss Smith waived all royalties from performances of ''God Bless America.'' The royalties continue to be turned over to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.''God Bless America'' became a standard in the repertory but both the song and Miss Smith experienced a curious resurgence of popularity beginning in 1969 when the Philadelphia Flyers professional hockey team began to substitute her recording of the song for ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' before games. The team began to win on nights the song was played. As the team improved, the record was reserved for crucial games and, at the end of the 1975-76 playing season the Flyers' record was 41 wins, 5 losses and 1 tie on nights Kate Smith sang ''God Bless America,'' either on record or in person. The first three of the five or so times she appeared in person, the Flyers' opponents were scoreless. God love you, Kate. I always will! Every time I hear you sing on a long ago recording, I will be thrilled, whether it's "Born Free" or "On a Clear Day" or of course "When The Moon Comes Over The Mountain" I hope the angels can hear you sing every day!