God Bless America

Posted by Steven Lewis on November 15, 1997 at 10:55:00:

Here is a recent exchange from the Old-Time Radio list:

From: chulrich@interchg.ubc.ca (Charles Ulrich)

In OTR Digest #359, ROY WAITE wrote:
According to the book, Radio Stars, by DeLong, "In 1938 Irving Berlin granted her (Kate Smith) exclusive rights to sing 'God Bless America' on the air, which she did year after year."

The word "granted" implies that Kate Smith asked for the exclusivity. We can only wonder if that is the correction implication. I wonder, has any singer other than Kate Smith recorded or sung that song?

Michael Biel responded: (mbiel@kih.net)

Under the American copyright laws, once permission to record a song has been granted to one performer it can not be refused to any other performer who applies. It is called "compulsory copyright." Kate Smith's first recording of "God Bless America" was made on March 21, 1939 (Victor 26198, matrix BS-035319-1), and Bing Crosby was in the studio six days later on March 27, 1939 recording it for Decca (Decca 2400, matrix DLA-1739-A.) Both records had "The Star Spangled Banner of the reverse side, and both probably hit the shops at the same time.

Note that, if the quotation from DeLong is taken literally, the exclusive rights regarded radio broadcasts, not concerts or records. -- Charles

I am not sure if the copyright law allows restriction of live public performances--I tend to doubt it. But as far as recording goes, the composer MUST allow other recordings once he allows one to be recorded.
Michael Biel mbiel@kih.net

Posted by Daevid MacKenzie on November 15, 1997 at 18:18:44:

In Reply to: God Bless America posted by Steven Lewis on November 15, 1997 at 10:55:00:

Bob Snyder at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh used to claim that, in fact, there was one notable case of such licensing refusal, or more precisely revocation, in the mid-'50s when Maynard Ferguson's band cut an arrangement of "All the things you are" for Capitol that the composer's heirs (Jerome Kern, perhaps?) strenuously objected to. And there was the arrangement of "St. Louis Blues" that Dizzy Gillespie's big band cut for RCA Victor in the late '40s that incorporated the intro of Charlie Parker's "Parker's Mood." W.C. Handy is supposed to have prevented RCA Victor from issuing the recording publicly while Handy was alive.

||| Bing Crosby Internet Museum Home Page ||| Bing FAQS