John Timpane, one of my former editors at the Philadelphia Inquirer, offers a good piece on the late, great singer Kate Smith, whose statute was removed and song God Bless America was canceled from the Philadelphia Flyers due to the lyrics to of songs she sang in the 1930s.
Kate Smith’s statue has been wrapped up and carted off from outside the Wells Fargo Center. Reaction to racist lyrics in two songs she sang — “That’s Why Darkies Were Born,” recorded in 1931, and “Pickaninny Heaven,” from a 1933 movie — silenced her rendition of “God Bless America” at Flyers and New York Yankees games.
Now it’s time to complicate the record further and consider Smith as a champion of racial tolerance.
In a long-forgotten radio speech in January 1945, “the First Lady of Radio” gave an impassioned speech attacking bigotry and racism, calling them “the diseases that eat away the fibers of peace.” As millions listened, she called for every church and family to commit to tolerance and understanding.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
You can also read my earlier piece on Kate Smith and hear her sing at a Flyers game via the below link: