Americans have always liked songs about their country. Since the terrorist attacks last month, they are singing these traditional patriotic songs more often than ever. I’m Shirley Griffith.
And I’m Sarah Long. Today we present songs that celebrate America on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.
((“FANFARE FOR THE COMMON MAN”))
Americans will always remember the terrorist attacks on September Eleventh in which thousands of people were killed. Americans reacted with shock, anger and sadness. They also reacted by singing. Songs celebrating their country are helping many Americans deal with suffering and loss. People throughout the nation are singing these songs.
One of the songs most often heard since the terrorist attacks is “God Bless America.” Lawmakers have sung it at the National Cathedral, in Congress and in state legislatures. Children are singing it in schools. People are singing it in churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious centers. Twenty-thousand people sang “God Bless America” at a memorial service at the New York Yankees baseball stadium.
The great songwriter Irving Berlin wrote “God Bless America.” Irving Berlin had come to the United States with his family from Russia when he was a small boy. He became very successful writing songs. He wrote “God Bless America” in Nineteen-Eighteen to be included in a traveling musical show.
However, Mister Berlin decided not to include the song in the show. Twenty years later, he looked at the song again and made some changes. The new song expressed his love and thanks to America for giving a poor immigrant a chance to succeed.
Kate Smith sang “God Bless America” for the first time on a national radio broadcast in Nineteen-Thirty-Eight. The public loved it. During World War Two, the song became especially important to Americans. Many people say it has become the unofficial national song.
Here, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings “God Bless America.”
((Music: GOD BLESS AMERICA))
Another patriotic song is called “America.” It is also known as “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” Samuel Smith wrote the words in Eighteen-Thirty-Two. The music is the same as the British national song, “God Save the Queen.”
A recent religious service in Britain remembered the people killed in the attacks in the United States. British citizens honored the dead by singing the American words to the song.
Here, American singer Mahalia Jackson sings “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”
((Music: “MY COUNTRY ‘TIS OF THEE”))
Another song that many people in the United States are singing is “America the Beautiful.” Many famous American actors and performers sang this song during a national television program to raise money for victims and heroes of the terrorist attacks.Katherine Lee Bates wrote the words to the song in Eighteen-Ninety-Three. Samuel Ward wrote the music. The United States Air Force Band and Singing Sergeants present their version of “America the Beautiful.”
((Music: “AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL”))
In Nineteen-Forty, folk singer and composer Woody Guthrie wrote the words to another song that celebrates America. “This Land is Your Land” has become one of the most popular folk songs in America. “This Land is Your Land” is not a religious song. Yet after September Eleventh, some Americans have sung this song in religious centers. Pete Seeger and the Weavers sing "This Land is Your Land."
((Music: “THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND”))
Congress made “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national song in Nineteen-Thirty-One. Americans sing it at the beginning of many public meetings and sports events.
Francis Scott Key wrote the words to the song in Eighteen-Fourteen. At that time, the United States and Britain were at war. Francis Scott Key watched as British forces attacked Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. Through the smoke and fire, he could see a huge American flag flying over the army base.
The next morning after the battle, he saw that the American flag still flew. That meant America had defeated the British. Francis Scott Key wrote a poem re-creating the event. Soon after, music was added to his words.
The words of "The Star-Spangled Banner" have gained new meaning since the terrorist attacks. The World Trade Center in New York fell soon after the attacks. Rescue workers found a flag in the remains of the building. They placed it over pieces of wreckage. This American flag marked the final resting place of thousands of people. Here is the Southwestern Christian College Chorus singing “The Star- Spangled Banner.”
((Music: THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER))
This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Cynthia Kirk. Our studio engineer was Keith Holmes. I'm Sarah Long.
And I'm Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program THIS IS AMERICA.
((Music: ”FANFARE FOR THE COMMON MAN”))