Kate Smith Biography

Kathyrn Elizabeth Smith, 1 May 1907, Greenville, Alabama, USA, d. 17 June 1986. Smith is best remembered for her dynamic, belted rendition of Irving Berlin’s American patriotic anthem ‘God Bless America’, recorded in 1938 for Victor Records and a hit on three separate occasions. Her career spanned 50 years. She began singing professionally in the early 20s and moved to New York during that decade to appear in vaudeville presentations and on the Broadway stage. Large-framed and possessing a booming soprano voice, she quickly gained attention and was recording hit records for Columbia Records by 1927, the first being ‘One Sweet Letter From You’ with Red Nichols’ Charleston Chasers. She began her long-running radio programme on CBS in 1931. Her first major hit came the same year with ‘When The Moon Comes Over The Mountain’, her own radio theme song. In the following year she recorded the immensely successful ‘River, Stay ’Way From My Door’ (later a hit for Frank Sinatra), with Guy Lombardo And His Royal Canadians. Smith’s association with patriotic causes began during World War II, when she helped to raise money for the US war effort. ‘God Bless America’ (written in 1918 and discarded by Berlin until he deemed it appropriate for Smith to record) first charted in 1939, before USA involvement in the war began, but returned to the bestseller lists twice more during the war. Smith also acted in several films during the 30s and 40s, including The Big Broadcast Of 1932 and This Is The Army, along with budding actor Ronald Reagan. Kate Smith continued to record successfully for Columbia until 1946 and then switched to MGM Records two years later. She starred in her own television programme in the early 50s but retired from showbusiness, save for sporadic appearances, in 1954. She died as a result of diabetes in 1986.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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