The Arty Semite

A 'God Bless America' Timeline

By Eileen Reynolds

  • Print
  • Share Share

From its creation in 1918 to its unofficial adoption as anthem for the fallen of 9/11, “God Bless America” has had quite a history. Here are some of the highlights.

August 19, 1918 Cut from the finale of “Yip, Yip, Yaphank,” which opened at New York’s Century Theatre.

November 10, 1938 Radio premiere, on “The Kate Smith Hour.”

February 1939 Sheet music published amid a battle between Berlin and Smith over performance rights to the song.

June 1940 God Bless America Fund established by Berlin to distribute the song’s royalties to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America.

January–October 1941 Banned from the airwaves, along with all songs licensed by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, of which Berlin was a founding member. (Broadcasters believe that royalties paid to ASCAP composers were too high.)

February 5, 1941 Performed by Eleanor Roosevelt and 1,200 striking Leviton Manufacturing Co. workers at a union rally in Brooklyn.

1943 Film debut, in “This Is the Army,” in a scene featuring Ronald Reagan playing Johnny Jones and Kate Smith playing herself.

May-June 1963 Performed by Young African-American students at school segregation protests in Jackson, Miss., and Baton Rouge, La.

March 16, 1974 Sung and played on the piano by Richard Nixon at the opening of the new Grand Ole Opry House, in Nashville, Tenn.

January 22, 1982 Sung by anti-abortion marchers at “Right to Life Day” in Buffalo, N.Y.

June 17, 1986 Kate Smith died. The New York Times ran a correction a few days after publishing an initial obituary that claimed Smith had “introduced a new song written expressly for her by Irving Berlin.”

September 22, 1989 Irving Berlin died at 101.

1998 Served as the soundtrack to a propaganda video by the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations.

September 21, 2001 Performed by Celine Dion in “America: A Tribute to Heroes,” a TV benefit concert for 9/11 victims.

November 5, 2008 Used as Oprah Winfrey’s entrance song for her TV special the day after Obama was elected president. (She yelled “Whoooooooo!” over the music.)


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: 9/11, god bless america, jewish

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.