Friday, September 9, 2011

God Bless America, the Song and the Story

The famous composer and lyricist, Irving Berlin (1888-1989) was born Israel Isidore Baline, in Russia. His family immigrated to the United State when Israel was five years old. When he was only eight years old, his father died and Israel began working odd jobs on the street to help the family survive.

Israel inherited some musical talent from his father, who was a cantor, and so eventually he found a job as a singing waiter, in a pub. One day the owner of the pub asked Israel to write a song as an advertisement for the cafe. Israel's song was published with a misprint of the composers name as I. Berlin. Israel liked the change, and so added his nick-name Irving to the misprint.

Despite the fact that he was a self taught pianist, could read very little music, and had no musical training, Irving, with the help of assistants or collaborators, wrote the words and music for more than 3,000 songs, along with multiple Broadway musicals.

Berlin was an outspoken American patriot. Too old to fight in WWII, he showed his support for the troops by writing several patriotic songs such as This is the Army, and traveling to entertain troops overseas. He originally wrote God Bless America in 1918, but did not publish it. In 1938 he revised the lyrics and the music, and then published it as a prayer that the U.S. would triumph over Hitler, and that there would come an end to the Nazi cruelty.

God Bless America has been considered by many as the unofficial national anthem. It is in most church hymnals and has been sung in Hollywood films, at sporting events, and for patriotic celebrations and demonstrations for more than 70 years. Many recording artists have included this beautiful hymn in their repertoire, including Kate Smith (1938) and Celine Dion (2002). And who can forget the memorable gathering of both Democrat and Republican congressmen and senators, following the September 11, 2001 attacks, as they joined their voices to sing as a prayer, God Bless America.

God Bless America Lyrics

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

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