The Surprising History of an American Anthem

Thursday, July 04, 2013

In 1918 Irving Berlin composed a show tune called "God Bless America." But he never would have imagined that his would eventually rise to the status of a nationally known patriotic anthem.

Written right after World War I and laying dormant for decades, this late-blooming but iconic American tune has endured largely in part to its versatility—from Kate Smith belting it out for the first time in 1938 to Whitney Houston warming up the crowd at a boxing match in 2000.

Sheryl Kaskowitz tells the story of its evolution and deep history in the new book, "God Bless America: The Surprising History of an Iconic Song." She explains the song's unexpected rise as a staple of American culture.



Sheryl Kaskowitz

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer


Jessica Miller and T.J. Raphael

Comments [1]

Stephen Walton from Portland OR

I really enjoyed this piece. It was a very thoughtful discussion of an important song and its changing identity, but more than that it was a good look at the ways in which a cultural object or work of art can change over time and depending on the community that adopts it.

I would love to know the source of the snippet of Emmylou Harris' duet (with ?) "This Land is your Land". Could you tell me who the other singer is, and/or the album title?

Thanks again.

Jul. 05 2013 12:19 AM

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