‘God Bless America’ singer banned over ‘racist’ 1930s songs
On Friday, the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team covered up a statue of Smith outside their arena with black tarp, issuing a statement that “several songs performed by Kate Smith contain offensive lyrics that do not reflect our values as an organization.” The Flyers are also removing Smith’s recording of ‘God Bless America’ from their library, the team said.
The Philadelphia Flyers have covered up a statue of Kate Smith because she sang some songs with racist lyrics in the 1940's. They won't even play her stirring rendition of "God Bless America" anymore. #triggered#snowflakes#Leavepoliticsoutofhockeypic.twitter.com/sQOXhJYj4n— Mark Hill (@choprmark) April 19, 2019
Following the lead of the New York Yankees, the Philadelphia Flyers announce they will stop playing Kate Smith's "God Bless America" & are covering this statue of her outside their arena as they investigate "offensive lyrics" in some of her songs.https://t.co/Ndd55OSaKq— Andy Bass (@AndyBassNY) April 19, 2019
On Thursday, as most of America focused on the Mueller report, the New York Yankees baseball team announced they were dropping Smith’s rendition of ‘God Bless America’, after receiving complaints about Smith’s “racist” recordings in the 1930s.
“The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously. And while no final conclusions have been made, we are erring on the side of sensitivity,” a Yankees spokesman told the New York Daily News.
The two songs in question are ‘Pickaninny Heaven’ (from a 1933 film) and ‘That’s Why Darkies Were Born’ (1931). While there are some “conflicting notions” regarding the latter song, which was considered satire at the time, wrote Stefan Bondy of the the Daily News, “her shocking lyrics from 1939 [sic] are neither humorous nor ironic in 2019.”
Irving Berlin wrote ‘God Bless America’ (1938) especially for Smith, and her 1939 recording was a staple of Yankees games in the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Flyers played it before their games for decades.
‘That’s Why Darkies Were Born’ was written by Ray Henderson and Lew Brown, and was considered progressive social satire of racism at the time. It was also performed by African-American entertainer and social activist Paul Robeson (of ‘Ol’ Man River’ fame), among others.
“Miss Smith is America,” President Franklin Delano Roosevelt told the visiting British royals in 1939, according to her 1986 New York Times obituary. In 1996, a Times music critic described Smith as inseparable from “[Irving] Berlin's great anthem – singer and song joined together to create an imperishable emblem of America.” Ronald Reagan honored her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1982.
Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!