“God Bless America” is an American patriotic song written by Irving Berlin in 1918 and revised by him in 1938. The later version has notably been recorded by Kate Smith, becoming her signature song.
“God Bless America” takes the form of a prayer (intro lyrics “as we raise our voices, in a solemn prayer”) for God’s blessing and peace for the nation (“…stand beside her and guide her through the night…”).
Originally, Irving Berlin wrote the song in 1918 while serving the U.S. Army at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York.
In 1938, with the rise of Adolf Hitler, Irvin Berlin, who was Jewish and a first‐generation European immigrant, 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 on her radio show. Berlin had made some minor changes; by this time, “to the right” was substituted by “through the night.” He also provided an introduction that is now rarely heard but which Smith always used: “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.” (In her first broadcast of the song, Kate Smith sang “that we’re far from there” rather than “for a land so fair”.) This was changed when Berlin published the sheet music in March 1939.
WATCH: Song “God Bless America” — Rendition by Kate Smith.