Fourth is the right time for - Yankee Doodle Dandies

Jun 30, 2011

For the Fourth of July, we cover our Top Ten Patriotic Songs of All Time, ever, at least 'til next year. And it’s amazing what you can find when you dare to look beneath the surface…

For a grab bag of irony, it’s hard to top “God Bless America."

Written by a Russian/Jewish immigrant, based on an Irish novelty tune, it also inspired (in protest) one of America’s most famous folk songs…

Irving Berlin came to the USA as a young boy, and became a fiercely patriotic American. He was serving in the Army when he penned the first version in 1918, and music historians agree that it draws heavily on a melody from a novelty song of the day “When Mose With His Nose Leads the Band." (Horribly racist to us, but racial stereotyping was common in popular culture of that era.)

The song mostly laid around until 1938, and with the darkening cloud of fascism spreading in Europe, Berlin felt it was time to revise it as a "peace song," and arranged for Kate Smith to sing it on her radio show on Armistice Day. The song became a hit, and there was talk of replacing "The Star Spangled Banner." But conservatives were strongly opposed to having an anthem composed by a foreigner and a Jew.

In 1940, Woody Guthrie decided the popular version was unrealistic and in response wrote a song called “God Blessed America For Me." The title was eventually changed, and we have a feeling you may know this one. It goes something like this:

This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This Land was made for you and me

(Footnote: Berlin donated all the royalties from his version of “God Bless America” to the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Campfire Girls.)