Irving Berlin

God Bless America, song

    Description by Joseph Stevenson

    "God Bless America" is a patriotic song in a brisk march tempo, written by one of America's favorite popular songwriters. After its introduction on a radio broadcast in 1938, it quickly became one of the most popular songs of its type, attaining the status of an unofficial national anthem.

    Irving Berlin (b. Israel Baline in Mogilev, Siberia, in 1888; d. New York, 1989) came to the United States at the age of five when his family determined to escape the rising trend of anti-Semitic pogroms in Russia. He taught himself piano and song composition, and obtained his pen name through a printer's misprint. Among his generation of Tin Pan Alley masters, he is notable for never trying for sophistication: his melodies and lyrics are simple and direct, with a common touch.

    Berlin was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1917, during World War I. He served at Camp Upton in Yaphank, Long Island, NY, where he was assigned to write a musical review for the troops. One of the songs he wrote for the show, which was called Yip, Yip, Yaphank, was "God Bless America" with slight differences in the words and music from the familiar version. Berlin decided that the seriousness of the song would not work with the surrounding comedy and withheld it.

    In autumn 1938, as the prospect for war was rising, Berlin decided to write a peace song, and remembered his 1918 song. He produced a proof version of it on October 31, 1938, and a final version just three days later. He brought the song to Kate Smith, a highly popular singer with a huge alto voice. On Armistice Day, Kate Smith sang the song for the first time on her national radio program. The top story that day, November 11, 1938, was about the previous night's pogrom against Jews carried out by Hitler's Nazi Party -- Reichkristalnacht (The Reich's Crystal Night). Americans that day could truly reflect that they lived in a blessed land and took heart from the confident tune and lyric. The song was an immediate hit. Kate Smith's recording alone sold millions of copies and the sheet music rapidly sold out. Berlin donated all royalties from the song to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America through his God Bless America Fund.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Westminster Choir College WCC 1606
    2016 Gothic Records G 49295
    2015 Music & Arts MACD 1287
    2014 Allentown Band / Altissimo AMP 21198
    2014 Decca
    2013 Altissimo ALT 72152
    2013 Clay Pasternack / Wh Sound Studio 7267
    2012 Mormon Tabernacle 5078531
    2012 Dorian Sono Luminus DSL 92162
    2012 Altissimo ALT 62372
    2012 Klavier Records K 77041
    2011 Altissimo ALT 63462
    2011 Altissimo 60932
    2011 Altissimo 70362
    2011 Sonoma SB 20260
    2011 Disc Makers / Jubilate Deo Chorale & Orchestra JDCOCD 010
    2011 Altissimo 61372
    2010 Mormon Tabernacle 5038092
    2010 Altissimo 18526
    2009 Mormon Tabernacle 5022851
    2009 Columbia River Entertainment Group 180139
    2009 Boston Pops Recordings BP0005
    2008 Altissimo 70392
    2008 Sheridan Square Records 7706
    2008 London/Decca / Decca 001089302
    2007 St. Clair 67822
    2007 Madacy 52916
    2006 Altissimo 55842
    2006 Decca 000673202
    2006 Valley Entertainment 215205
    2005 Decca 4762743
    2005 Altissimo / Military Music America 220103
    2005 Doug Gefvert 2001
    2004 Word Distribution / BHT 270016
    2004 Decca 2337
    2004 Turtle Creek Chorale 1000
    2004 Razor & Tie 29102
    2004 Altissimo 55772
    2004 Zamir Chorale of Boston / Zamir Chorale of Boston zamirch2
    2004 Altissimo / MENC 55782
    2004 Altissimo 55792
    2003 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) / BCI-Eclipse Distribution 40400
    2003 Boston Pops Recordings / Boston Symphony Orche 3
    2003 Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 90334
    2003 Decca 000658
    2003 Panda Digital 0214
    2003 Summit Records 353
    2003 Altissimo 55752
    2003 Guild GMCD 7247
    2003 Mormon Tabernacle 5928
    2003 ASV/Living Era / Living Era CDAJA 5465
    2003 Decca 000478
    2002 Romophone 87002
    2002 Brentwood Records 10663
    2002 Koch International / Koch International Classics 7544
    2002 Koch 7543
    2002 Amerimusic / Amerimusic 2001
    2002 RCA Victor / RCA 63889
    2002 Decca / Universal Distribution 473006
    2002 Sony Classical 89863
    2002 Azica Records 71219
    2002 The Boys Choir of Harlem / Tantivy Entertainment 12
    2002 Sony Music Distribution 87750
    2002 Sony Music Distribution 54574
    2002 Jay Records 9007
    2002 Park South Records / Orpheus Records / Park South Records 90644
    2002 EMI-Manhattan / Angel Records / Manhattan Records 37564
    2001 Altissimo 55612
    2001 Amerimusic / Amerimusic 2000
    2001 RCA 63888
    2001 RCA Victor Red Seal 09026638882
    2001 Shell Castle 2
    2001 RCA Victor Red Seal 63895
    2001 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 5139
    2000 RCA 63659
    2000 BMG Special Products 6501
    2000 Romophone 81033
    1997 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 7128
    1997 Concert Gold 3660
    1996 Delos 3203
    1995 RCA 66702
    1994 MCA / Pro-Arte Records MCAD-20682
    1993 Erato MDK48295
    1993 Quintessence 2082
    1993 Pro-Arte Records 570
    1993 RCA Victor / RCA 61545
    1993 RCA / RCA Victor 61545
    1992 RCA Victor Red Seal 61509
    1992 Sony Classical 48224
    1990 RCA 4421
    1990 Capitol C2-92058
    1988 Telarc Distribution CD 80144
    Pearl 9990
    RCA 902661508
    Boston Pops Recordings 3
    Pro-Arte Records 5
    Happy Days/Conifer 232
    Pro-Arte Records 263
    Eroica Classical Recordings 3443
    Sony Music Distribution 48295
    Madacy 52915
    Warner Bros. 46062
    Analekta 8803
    Elizabeth Hynes
    Monitor Classics 61776
    Klavier Records 77014
    Millennial Choirs & Orchestras 7782004