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Kate Smith

Background information
Birth name Kathryn Elizabeth Smith
Born May 1, 1907(1907-05-01)
Greenville, Virginia
Died June 17, 1986 (aged 79)
Raleigh, North Carolina
Occupations Singer

Kathryn Elizabeth "Kate" Smith (May 1, 1907 – June 17, 1986) was an American singer, best known for her rendition of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America". Smith had a radio, TV, and recording career spanning five decades.

Smith was born in Greenville, Virginia. Her professional musical career began in 1930, when she was discovered by Columbia Records vice president Ted Collins, who became her longtime partner and manager. Collins put her on radio in 1931. She sang the controversial top twenty song of 1931, "That's Why Darkies Were Born". She appeared in 1932 in Hello Everybody!, with co-stars Randolph Scott and Sally Blane, and in the 1943 wartime movie This is the Army she sang "God Bless America".

Smith began recording in 1926; her biggest hits were "River, Stay 'Way From My Door" (1931), "The Woodpecker Song" (1940), "The White Cliffs of Dover" (1941), "Rose O'Day" (1941), "I Don't Want to Walk Without You" (1942), "There Goes That Song Again" (1944), "Seems Like Old Times" (1946), and "Now Is the Hour" (1947). Her theme song was "When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain"; she had helped write the lyrics. Smith greeted her audience with "Hello, everybody!" and signed off with "Thanks for listenin'."

Contents

Radio

Smith's plump figure made her an occasional object of derision; however, late in her career, Philadelphia Flyers hockey fans (see Kate Smith statue below) lovingly said about her appearance before games, "It ain't BEGUN 'til the fat lady sings!" Smith was 5' 10" tall and weighed 235 pounds at the age of 30[1]. She titled her 1938 autobiography Living in a Great Big Way. She credited Ted Collins]] with helping her overcome her self-consciousness, writing, "Ted Collins was the first man who regarded me as a singer, and didn't even seem to notice that I was a big girl,"[2] She noted, "I'm big, and I sing, and boy, when I sing, I sing all over!"[2]

Smith was a major star of radio, usually backed by Jack Miller's Orchestra. She began with her twice-a-week NBC series, Kate Smith Sings (quickly expanded to six shows a week), followed by a series of shows for CBS: Kate Smith and Her Swanee Music (1931–33), sponsored by La Palina Cigars; The Kate Smith Matinee (1934–35); The Kate Smith New Star Revue (1934–35); Kate Smith's Coffee Time (1935–36), sponsored by A&P; and The Kate Smith A&P Bandwagon (1936–37).

The Kate Smith Hour was a leading radio variety show, offering comedy, music and drama with appearances by top personalities of films and theater for eight years (1937–45). The show's resident comics, Abbott and Costello and Henny Youngman introduced their comedy to a nationwide radio audience aboard her show, while a series of sketches based on the Broadway production of the same name led to The Aldrich Family as separate hit series in its own right in 1940.

Smith continued on the Mutual Broadcasting System, CBS, ABC, and NBC, doing both music and talk shows into the 1950s. Because of her popularity, Smith's face was a common sight in print advertisements of the day. Over the years, she acted as a commercial spokesman for numerous companies such as Studebaker, Pullman, and Jell-O.[3]

Smith's figure wasn't the only satire target. Her cheery radio sign-on was parodied by comedian Henry Morgan when he launched his own show in 1942: "Good evening, anybody, here's Morgan," which became his sign-on. Morgan would recall in his memoir, Here's Morgan, that Smith's sign-on struck him as condescending: "I, on the other hand, was grateful if anybody was listening."

Significance in professional sports

On October 8, 1987, the Kate Smith statue was dedicated outside the Spectrum in Philadelphia prior to the Flyers game vs. the Montreal Canadiens.

When the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team played her rendition of "God Bless America" before their game on December 11, 1969, an unusual part of her career began. The team began to play the song before home games every once in awhile; the perception was that the team was more successful on these occasions, so the tradition grew.

At the Flyers' home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 11, 1973, she made a surprise appearance to perform the song in person and received a tremendous reception. The Flyers won that game by a 2-0 score.

She again performed the song at the Spectrum in front of a capacity crowd of 17,007 excited fans before Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals on May 19, 1974, in which the Flyers clinched their first of two back-to-back Stanley Cups, winning that playoff series against the Boston Bruins 4 games to 2, with Bernie Parent shutting the Bruins out 1-0 in that game.

Smith also performed live at these Flyers home games: May 13, 1975, when the Flyers beat the New York Islanders 4-1 to win Game 7 of the Stanley Cup semi-finals (New York Islanders captain Ed Westfall infamously tried to jinx the Flyers "good luck charm" in Kate Smith by skating up and presenting her with a bouquet of roses after her performance), and on May 16, 1976, before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, when the Flyers lost to the Montreal Canadiens 5-3 and were swept by Les Canadiens in that series.

The Flyers' record when "God Bless America" is played or sung in person stands at a remarkable 77 wins, 21 losses, and 4 ties.[4] Ms. Smith and her song remain a special part of Flyers' history. In 1987, the team erected a statue of Smith outside their arena at the time, the Spectrum, in her memory. The Flyers will still show a video of her singing "God Bless America" in lieu of "The Star Spangled Banner" for good luck before important games, most recently before their victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 15, 2008 and again on April 19, 2009 before game 3 of the opening round of the playoffs versus the Pittsburgh Penguins as well as the loss in Game 4 on April 21, 2009. Often, the video of her performance is accompanied by Lauren Hart, daughter of the late Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster, Gene Hart, longtime voice of the Flyers.

In 1982, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan.

Her rendition of "God Bless America" is also played during the 7th inning stretch of most New York Yankees home games.

Proceeds or money from her performances of "God Bless America" are donated to the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.

Death

Kate Smith, who never married, was crippled by diabetes and her enormous weight problem in her last years and was confined to a wheelchair. She died in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1987 at the age of 79.

Listen to

References

  1. ^ Current Biography 1940, pp 745-7
  2. ^ a b Cassidy, Marsha Francis (2005). What Women Watched: Daytime Television in the 1950s. U. of Texas Press. pp. 51–53. 
  3. ^ "Gallery of vintage graphic design featuring Kate Smith as spokesman". http://graphic-design.tjs-labs.com/gallery-view?keyword=KATE%20SMITH&match=EXACT. 
  4. ^ "Flyers History - Kate Smith". FlyersHistory.net. http://www.flyershistory.net/cgi-bin/kate.cgi. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 

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