If you’ve attended or even watched a Flyers game over the past few years, you’ve heard the #1 Anthemist in NHL Lauren Hart bridge a time warp in a duet of “God Bless America” with Kate Smith. To my recollection, that duet didn’t happen at all this season. I wouldn’t bet on ever hearing it again.
News broke today that the New York Yankees are ending an 18-year tradition of playing a 1939 recording of “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch after at least two overtly racist songs recorded by Smith were unearthed. The playing of “God Bless America” in the Bronx first began after 9/11, so in staying with that tradition, Smith’s version has been replaced.
Back to Smith. The songs are disgusting and the imagery used is nothing short of despicable. In the song “Pickaninny Heaven”, Smith dedicates the song to “a lotta little colored children who are listenin’ in at an orphanage in New York City”. It gets even worse. Per the New York Daily News, who reported the Yankees’ decision, Smith sang that the children:
“…should fantasize about an amazing place with ‘great big watermelons,’ among other treats.”
As if that weren’t enough, Smith also recorded a song “That’s Why Darkies Were Born”, which included the lyrics, “Someone had to pick the cotton. … That’s why darkies were born.”
For those wondering whatever happened to the statue of Kate Smith that once resided outside of the Spectrum, it’s currently stationed on the path near an Xfinity Live! parking lot.
Usually when accusations of overt racism are levied, some argue that “those were the times”. I can’t fathom a time when it was acceptable to conceptualize these songs, record them, and film a video. The Yankees made the first move. Will the Flyers do the same?