1: Song lyrics, Irving Berlin’s "God Bless America," 1938.
The sheet music and lyrics for "God Bless America."
Suggested Activity: Play this 1939 recording of "God Bless America" for the class, and project or print the lyrics. Use this as a set induction. Have students share immediate reactions or memories upon seeing and hearing this song.
After students have discussed their reactions, associations, and memories, look closely at Berlin’s lyrics. Point out that the song uses the first person singular: “I.” Ask students to consider: who is the “I”? And what does it add to the song? Berlin’s daughter asserts that Berlin is making “an incredibly personal statement” with this song (see resource 2 of this kit), but most of us don’t associate the song with Berlin in the first place. Does the song feel like a personal statement? Does it feel like a political statement? How does it feel to sing the words “land that I love”? Would the song have been better or worse if it didn’t use the first person singular (like the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which uses the first person plural instead)?
Source: “God Bless America” by Irving Berlin © 1938, 1939 by Irving Berlin. Copyright Renewed 1965, 1966 by Irving Berlin. Copyright Assigned the Trustees of the God Bless America Fund International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by Permission.