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A Short Christmas Interview with Jerry
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"This is what the Lord says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, and ask where the good way is, and walk in it. You will find rest for your soul."
Jeremiah 6:16 NIV

"Why Did He Write It?"

godblesamericaOn May 11, 1888 a son was born to a poor Jewish family living in Russia; they named him Israel Isidore Baline. His mother and father had heard about this wonderful nation, America, and when Isidore was five years old they immigrated to America to find their own American dream.

    But sadly, three years after coming to America, Isidore’s father died and his family was left with the real possibility of starving to death. So Isidore had to work just to survive. At only eight years old, he took any job he could find. He started off selling newspapers, and found himself doing street performances – singing, dancing - and finally landed a job in a restaurant as a singing waiter. 

    One day he was asked by his boss, the restaurant owner, to write a song for that café. It seemed that the rival café had written a song and had it published. His boss needed his own song for his restaurant, so Isidore, now a young man, wrote a song - and soon it was published.  For writing that song, Isidore was paid $.37. But something happened which changed his life forever. On the published sheet music, they misspelled his name, and from that moment on, in the musical publishing world, he was forever known, not as Israel Isidore Baline, but as I Berlin, his misspelled name on that first published sheet music.  

    Yes, this poor Jewish immigrant who almost starved to death on the streets of New York City became the famous composer, Irving Berlin, and he began to work composing songs for the musical stage and Broadway. 

    Well, in 1917 after a number of successful musicals, now at the age of 29, he staged a musical review for an army base in New York. It was a wonderful patriotic review and a tribute to our men fighting in World War I - it was intended to lift the soldier’s spirits.

    But here's where a very strange twist to Irving Berlin's story came. He had written one song for that musical review, a highly patriotic song, and he decided at the last moment not to use it. So the sheet music for this song was put away and stored with his other unpublished songs, where it stayed for over 20 years. Little did he know that it would someday be his most popular song written - that it would be a song that would literally lift the failing spirits of a Nation in trouble. 

    Twenty years past - it was 1938 - by now Irving Berlin was one of the most successful and respected songwriters in America. But he never forgot where he had come from and just how very blessed he was to live in such a wonderful country, America. 

    One day Berlin was approached by a man by the name of Ted Collins, the manager of one of the most popular singers of that time, Miss Kate Smith. And when she sang a song, when she put her whole heart into it, no one forgot it. What Ted Collins wanted Berlin to do was to write a new patriotic song for Kate Smith to sing on her weekly radio program. Believe it or not, Irving Berlin, this man who had written over 3000 songs, tried and tried to write a special song for Ms. Smith - but he got nowhere. He was about to quit, but then he remembered that patriotic song he had written 20 years before – and had rejected it. He went to his old trunk of rejected songs and there it was.                                           

    Just what was the song? “God Bless America”.When Kate Smith sang that song or her radio program in 1938, the phone lines were jammed with calls from listeners saying that they had to have a copy of that song. The song was published - it sold millions upon millions of copies - and for almost 3 years, each time Kate Smith performed anywhere she was asked to sing that song. And each time she was given a standing ovation by audiences, moved to tears by her presentation and the songs simple but powerful words. 

    But to me, the most powerful part of the story is that this song, “God Bless America”, written by Irving Berlin was not just a statement - it was a prayer. Irving Berlin was asking God to bless America, land that he loved; to stand beside her and guide her through the night with a light from above. And since that song was written, America has seen many dark days; and each time a dark day has come, Americans all across this great land have turned to this song as an inspiration, as a comfort, as a prayer.    

    During these dark and difficult days of our nation, please pray for God to bless America.