God Bless our Country  

Never Forget   

God Bess America

God Bless America

Berlin originally wrote the song in 1918 while serving in the U.S. Army at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York, but decided that it did not fit in a revue called Yip Yip Yaphank, so he set it aside. The lyrics at that time included the line, "Make her victorious on land and foam, God bless America...", as well as "Stand beside her and guide her, to the right with the light from above."

Music critic Jody Rosen comments that a 1906 Jewish dialect novelty song, "When Mose With His Nose Leads the Band," contains a six-note fragment that is "instantly recognizable as the opening strains of 'God Bless America.'" He interprets this as an example of Berlin's "habit of interpolating bits of half-remembered songs into his own numbers." Berlin, born Israel Baline, had himself written several Jewish-themed novelty tunes.

In 1938, with the rise of Hitler, Berlin, who was a Jewish immigrant from Siberia, felt it was time to revive it as a "peace song" and it was introduced on an Armistice Day broadcast in 1938 sung by Kate Smith. Berlin made some minor changes; by this time, "to the right" might have been considered a call for fascism or, at the very least, political conservatism, so he substituted "through the night." He also provided an introduction that is now rarely heard: "While the storm clouds gather far across the sea/Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free/Let us all be grateful for a land so fair/As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer."

The song was a hit; there was even a movement to make "God Bless America" the national anthem of the United States. In 1943, Smith's rendition was featured in the patriotic musical This Is the Army along with other Berlin songs. Manuscripts in the Library of Congress reveal the evolution of the song from victory to peace. Berlin gave the royalties of the song to the God Bless America Fund for redistribution to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of the USA.