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God Bless AmericaThe Surprising History of an Iconic Song$
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Sheryl Kaskowitz

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199919772

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199919772.001.0001

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As the Storm Clouds Gather

As the Storm Clouds Gather

Origin Myths and Hidden Battles

(p.12) Chapter 1 As the Storm Clouds Gather
God Bless America

Sheryl Kaskowitz

Oxford University Press

The song’s story begins during World War I, when Irving Berlin first sketched “God Bless America” for use in the all-soldier musical revue Yip Yip Yaphank, then leaps forward to 1938, when Kate Smith premiered it on her radio show. Chapter 1 explores the stories and myths surrounding the song’s origins, introduces the main characters, and goes behind the scenes to expose the struggle between Irving Berlin and Smith’s manager Ted Collins for control of the song and its legacy. The purpose is not only to understand the historical context surrounding the song’s creation and first performances, but to examine the underlying tensions between composer and performer in American popular music.

Keywords:   God Bless America, Irving Berlin, Kate Smith, Ted Collins, Yip Yip Yaphank, World War I, origins, control, legacy, composer, performer

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