[78-L] Rare Kate Smith Broadcast Recordings

Michael Biel mbiel at mbiel.com
Sat Nov 9 13:43:41 PST 2013

I hope some of you will want to listen.  I will have label photos on

Mike Biel  mbiel at mbiel.com

 November 10 will be the 75th anniversary of Kate Smith’s premiere of
 Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” on “The Kate Smith Hour”.

 Long thought to be lost, a recording of that portion of the broadcast
 has only recently been uncovered -- in Irving Berlin's personal record
 collection! The saga of that recording will be told on a special
 broadcast on www.YesterdayUSA.com at 10:30 PM Eastern on Sunday
 10 (repeated Monday Nov 11 on the Blue channel at 9:30 AM).
 A newly restored version of this rare recording, plus other even rarer
 recordings will be heard, along with story of the song from the files
 Irving Berlin’s personal archive.
 What is most startling is that the words of the song were significantly
 different in two places during that initial broadcast, and for several
 other of her broadcasts in the next few months. One of these changes
 the common understanding of the message and the purpose of the song. It
 was not meant as a statement of the strength of the United States and
 its place in the world of confronting threats to freedom. In
 commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Armistice which ended The
 Great War (as some called it then), Irving Berlin’s purpose was to
 present an ode to peace and non-intervention, mirroring the general
 attitude of isolationism of the country in the 1930s. 
 “Let us all be grateful that we’re far from there” – those are
 the words he wrote and Kate Smith sang as an expression of relief that
 it is “far across the sea” where the “storm clouds” of war were
 gathering. It is startling to hear those words in the third line of the
 verse where we expect to hear ”Let us all be grateful for a land so
 fair”. These are the words that were published, and are in every
 known recording that includes the verse – except for Kate Smith’s
 broadcasts. That was the big surprise when the recording was
 discovered, and it is an even bigger surprise that those words
 till at least February 1939, the eve of the song’s publication and
 first recordings. 
 Berlin had given Kate Smith and her manager Ted Collins, an exclusive 
 on the song, something that could only happen if he did not publish the
 song or allow any recordings to be made. By March 1939 the song HAD to
 be released to the public because of the mounting requests to perform
 it. Not to be dismissed was the FURY of Jack Kapp of Decca Records who
 HAD to get a recording of it by Bing Crosby on the market. So Kate made
 her record so that Bing could make his, and the song was published with
 an admonition that it be performed only with due reverence. And so it
 has for 75 years, including the highly controversial use of the song at
 baseball games. 
 Oh yes, what about the OTHER change to two full lines in the final
 chorus of the song? What city in U.S. territory other than Rome rhymes
 with foam? And why was the broadcast on November 10 when Armistice Day
 was November 11? Curious? Tune in to the Red and Blue channels of
 www.YesterdayUSA.com at 10:30 PM Eastern on November 10, 2013 (repeated
 on the Blue channel Monday Nov 11 at 9:30 AM Eastern) and find out.

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