Kate Smith’ s version of Irving Berlin‘s song God Bless America has been part of American sports tradition for decades.
However, a recent revelation that she also recorded two songs with racist content in the 1930s (That’s Why Darkies Were Born (1931) and Pickaninny Heaven (1933) has resulted in cancellation of playing God Bless America by the New York Yankees baseball and the Philadelphia Flyers hockey teams.
Wherever you stand on the issue of banning all works of a performer because of past racist lyrics, listening to these two Kate Smith songs from the 1930s is a shocking reminder of how common casual racism was in America’s not too distant past.
Popular during WWII, Kate Smith’s radio and recording career reached its pinnacle in the 1940s – when she was known as The Songbird of the South.
In the 1950s, she had two TV shows: the late afternoon Kate Smith Hour and the Kate Smith Evening Hour. She continued on the Mutual Broadcasting System, CBS, ABC, and NBC with music and talk shows on radio until 1960.
Singing God Bless America at the Philadelphia Flyers hockey games from 1969-1976, Smith attracted new national attention.
However, in 1960, as she faded from the limelight and rock and roll increased in popularity, the Kate Smith Show lasted only six months.