Kate Smith’s ‘God Bless America’ Still Welcome in Wildwood (not Cape May)
The Philadelphia Flyers have completely removed the statue of singer Kate Smith. The Flyers and the New York Yankees alike have pulled her rendition of "God Bless America" from their libraries.
But it'll play at the Jersey Shore.
“It’s an Irving Berlin patriotic song that has nothing to do with anything other than America,” Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano told 1202 WPHT’s Dom Giordano on Monday, Philly.com reports. “I can assure you that my conversation with the mayor of North Wildwood, Patrick Rosenello, is we have no intentions of removing it.”
Smith's rendition of "God Bless America" had long been considered a good-luck charm for the Flyers, who adopted it in the 1960s. It seemed the team won more often when the song was played before a game.
The New York Yankees have traditionally played the song during the 7th inning stretch after the 9/11 attacks.
But both teams announced they would stop playing the song, and the Flyers covered Smith's statue, as they looked into reports she recorded songs called "That's Why Darkies Were Born" and "Pickaninny Heaven." The former is considered by some to be satirical, and was additionally recorded by Paul Robeson, the black cultural icon from New Jersey. The latter includes lyrics about "colored children" fantasizing about a place with "great big watermelons."
The Flyers eventually took down the statue entirely, saying that while they've enjoyed a long relationship with her version of "God Bless America," some of her other songs "include lyrics and sentiments that are incompatible with the values of our organization, and evoke painful and unacceptable themes."
"While Kate Smith's performance of 'God Bless America' cannot be erased from its place in Flyers history, that rendition will no longer be featured in our game presentations," the team wrote. "And to ensure the sentiments stirred this week are no longer echoed, earlier today we completed the removal of the Kate Smith statue from its former location outside our arena."
Troiano told Giordano he and other officials understand the history and the problems with racist lyrics in other songs.
"But the world’s gotten so politically correct and so afraid that they’re going to offend somebody. … The song is greater than anything," he said. "So you know what? It’ll continue to play in Wildwood.”
However, Cat Country 107.3 the Hume family of Sunset Beach Gifts will play another version of the song during its nightly flag ceremonies honoring veterans
Family members of Smith told USA Today this weekend they're "heartbroken" by the controversy.
"It's somebody who found the words to two songs that she sang, out of 3,000 that she recorded, and tried to make a case out of it," Bob Andron, 74, told USA Today this weekend. "And my heart goes out to them, too. Because they're misguided. They don't understand what kind of a person Kate Smith was."
Andron is husband to Suzy Andron, Smith's niece.
Stefan Bondy wrote about the controversy for the New York Daily News. He spoke to New Jersey 101.5's Steve Trevelise last week.
"I obviously didn't expect the reaction that it got, "but I think it's a sign of the times and a good sign that the Flyers also reacted the way they did," Bondy told Trevelise.
He told Trevelise he understands cultural mores were different when Smith's recordings were made, "but it's not 1939 and that song is being played to all sorts of people of race color and creed at Yankee Stadium in 2019, so I certainly understand why the Yankees did what they did."
— With previous reporting by Sergio Bichao and Steve Trevelise
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