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Yankees and Flyers drop Kate Smith's 'God Bless America' due to racist lyrics in some of her songs

Since 1969, the Flyers has played Smith’s 'God Bless America' before must-win games, and it has proven to be a good luck charm.
UPDATED MAR 18, 2020
American singer Kate Smith (Source : Getty Images)
American singer Kate Smith (Source : Getty Images)

Kate Smith's version of 'God Bless America' has been serving as the clarion call for the Yankees ever since 2001 but now the team has renounced the song as their theme track due to its racist content. The decision has also been taken up by the Philadelphia Flyers whose connection with the singer is a little more personal, than that of the Yankees. Both the teams have announced they will stop playing the track at the games, claiming that most of her songs had lyrics that could easily offend people of other races. In fact, the Flyers have also stated that they would cover up Smith's statue which has been in front of their arena since 1987.

The statue was erected barely a year after Smith's death in 1986. The Flyers shared a special bond with Smith and the Flyers also have long paired videos of Smith performing “God Bless America” with Lauren Hart for a duet, right before the playoff games. The team, however, has reportedly not used the rendition since the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Smith's connection with the Flyers started in 1969 when a team executive ordered her version of "God Bless America" to be played instead of "The Star Spangled Banner." That led to her performing the song several times before games in the 1970s. The Yankees have used her recording of "God Bless America" and sometimes live singers during the seventh inning since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They have used her version twice this season and have mostly played an organ version.

The Virginia-born singer was pretty famous during the Second World War, and had earned the title of "first lady of radio". Even then she was most well known for her version of the composer Irving Berlin’s song 'God Bless America', which she debuted on Armistice Day in 1938. Former President Ronald Reagan awarded Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1982, four years before her death in 1986.

However, it seems now her long declared legacy has come under scrutiny. Smith's 1931 track, titled 'That's Why Darkies Were Born', contains lyrics which is pretty offending even at the first glance. The lyrics goes as, "Someone had to pick the cotton,/ Someone had to plant the corn,/ Someone had to slave and be able to sing,/ That's why darkies were born." There have also been several complaints about the lyrics of 'Pickaninny Heaven' which encourages “colored children” to fantasize about a heaven where “great big watermelons” roll around, and this was just a blow on the already stirring rumor about the infamous history between African Americans and watermelons. 


A Yankees spokesperson told the Daily News, "The Yankees have been made aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and decided to immediately and carefully review this new information. The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously. And while no final conclusions have been made, we are erring on the side of sensitivity.” The Flyers also said in a statement: “We have recently become aware that several songs performed by Kate Smith contain offensive lyrics that do not reflect our values as an organization. As we continue to look into this serious matter, we are removing Kate Smith’s recording of ‘God Bless America’ from our library and covering up the statue that stands outside of our arena.”

with inputs from AP