God Bless America Introduction
“God Bless America” is one of America’s favorite patriotic songs. Its melody is stirring, it’s easy to sing, and its words seem readily adaptable to almost every national crisis or occasion. When Irving Berlin wrote it in 1918, the song was meant to be part of a morale-boosting show celebrating American soldiers as they headed off to war. When the song was revived in 1938, it was revised slightly to echo widespread hopes that the United States would steer clear of the war brewing in Europe. And after the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001, Congresspersons, singing policemen, and common citizens made the song a symbol of their unity and resolve. Not all Americans celebrate the song so enthusiastically, though. Read on to learn more about one of our country’s most patriotic tunes and the Americans in the last century who have lauded or loathed it.
About the Song
|Year||1938 (revised from a version written in 1918)|
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The song was written in 1918 as Americans marched off to Europe to join the Allies in what would be labeled World War I. Just two years earlier, President Woodrow Wilson had promised that he would keep American boys out of the war, but after German U-boats repeatedly attacked American merchant ships, Wilson had no choice but to take the nation to war. By then, most Americans were ready, but still the government waged an elaborate propaganda campaign to build public support for their cause. Songwriter Irving Berlin was drafted into the army to be part of this campaign, and he wrote “God Bless America” while serving at an army camp in New York.
The song was revived during the 1930s as European nations moved closer to war and American citizens resolved not to be dragged in. These
Not everyone loved the song, though. Folk singer Woody Guthrie was infamously opposed to the song’s lyrics, which he felt depicted an unrealistic view of America. In response, he wrote “This Land Is Your Land” in 1940. Guthrie’s song became a patriotic anthem in its own right, despite the fact that its lyrics revealed the singers communist leanings.