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Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (19) | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 1 May 1907Greenville, Virginia, USA
Date of Death 17 June 1986Raleigh, North Carolina, USA  (diabetes)
Birth NameKathryn Elizabeth Smith
Nicknames The First Lady of Radio
The Songbird of the South
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

She was dubbed "The Songbird of the South" and would be forever etched in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans as a true American symbol of World War II, especially after giving voice to Irving Berlin's classic song "God Bless America." Her inspiring rendition went on to sell millions of war bonds and even helped a hockey team in the 1970s win the Stanley Cup. Singing patriot Kate Smith was born Kathryn Elizabeth Smith on May 1, 1907. As a child she showed a devoted interest toward singing and dancing, initially appearing in jazz nightclubs before opting for a standard music career. Discovered by the famed singer/dancer Eddie Dowling, Kate made her Broadway debut in his musical comedy "Honeymoon Lane" in 1926. Double-chinned and exceedingly heavyset, she served as the plump, singing slapstick foil to the star, and continued in that same predictable vein with the subsequent tour of "Hit the Deck" and in "Flying High" the 1930 Broadway show headlining Bert Lahr. Unhappy at being made fun of in burlesque comedy and preferring to focus on her natural singing ability, Kate quickly joined forces with Columbia Records vice president Ted Collins who subsequently became her partner, protector and manager. Pointing her in the direction of radio, Kate made her debut in 1931 and her stardom was secured by year's end. She went on to break the record for longevity at the renown Palace Theatre. Her radio celebrity prompted a guest cameo role in the Paramount musical film The Big Broadcast (1932) singing what would become her signature piece "When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain" (she had co-written the lyrics). This, in turn, led to her first and only film vehicle. In Hello, Everybody! (1933), Kate Smith literally played Kate Smith, a meek, plus-sized radio singer who unabashedly tends to her farm in between jobs while losing the man of her dreams ('Randolph Scott') to her svelte-looking sister, played by Sally Blane. As expected, Kate's character finds true happiness not in the arms of a man but in the helping and caring of others. True to form, Kate never married. Realizing she was not at all film material, Kate wisely stuck with radio and recordings, appearing in a film only one other time--as a guest singing "God Bless America" in the Warner Bros. star-studded variety show This Is the Army (1943). She began making records in 1926 and over the years her best-selling hits would include "River, Stay 'Way From My Door" (1931), "The Woodpecker Song" (1940), "The White Cliffs of Dover" (1941), "I Don't Want to Walk Without You" (1942), "There Goes That Song Again" (1944), "Seems Like Old Times" (1946), "Now Is the Hour" (1947) and "How Great Thou Art (1965). Kate had one of the most popular radio variety shows with "The Kate Smith Hour", which aired weekly from 1937-1945. At the same time she fronted the top daytime radio show with the midday "Kate Smith Speaks," a news and commentary program. She made a grand and memorable entrance at Carnegie Hall in 1963 and performed for Arthur Fiedler and his Boston Pops in 1967. Television was also a successful medium for the singing star with a Monday-Friday afternoon variety show "The Kate Smith Hour," which ran four years from 1950. The show proved so popular that NBC handed her the prime time "Kate Smith Evening Hour" as well. A variety show favorite, she appeared for Ed Sullivan, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Jack Paar, Dean Martin, Andy Williams, Tony Orlando, and Carol Burnett. During her last productive decade, she gave live concerts and performed in clubs all over the country. Illness would intervene in the 1970s and diabetes forced her to retire, eventually crippling her and confining her to a wheelchair. She died of major complications in Raleigh, North Carolina, on June 17, 1986.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Trade Mark (2)

Her theme song: "When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain."
Greeted audiences with "Hello, everybody!" and signed off with "Thanks for listenin'!"

Trivia (19)

Received the Women's International Center (WIC) Living Legacy Award in 1985.
Officially retired in February 1979.
Co-wrote her theme song, "When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain," with Harry Woods.
Sang her most famous song, Irving Berlin's "God Bless America", before Philadelphia Flyers games for many years, always to an appreciative audience.
She was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1999.
Made her last public appearance in a surprise cameo at the finale of the the 1982 Emmy awards. The audience gave her a standing ovation and joined host Bob Hope in singing "God Bless America" in her honor as she sat in her wheelchair beaming and singing along although her voice was not heard over the crowd.
Grammy Award Winner for Best Gospel Album, "How Great Thou Art" (RCA: 1966).
In her honor, The Kate Smith USA Friends Club was formed in 1967 to the acknowledgement of Kate herself.
Kate became a singing good-luck charm for the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team with her renditions of "God Bless America" helping to inspire them to two successive Stanley Cups (1974 and 1975). In 1987, the team erected a statue of Smith outside their arena in her memory.
In 1976 she was named Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade.
Kate has often been considered the inspiration for the saying, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings."
In 1982, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan.
Kate's success with "God Bless America" inspired Woody Guthrie to write his own musical response "This Land Is Your Land", which became a patriotic standard in its own right.
Kate asked Irving Berlin himself for a patriotic song for her radio show, and he gave her "God Bless America" which was originally written by him in 1918. Berlin changed some of the lyrics from his original composition, replacing "from the green fields of Virginia / to the gold fields out in Nome" with "From the mountains to the prairies / To the oceans white with foam." After some other minor adjustments, he gave the song to Kate. She first performed it on Armistice Day, November 11, 1938.
Smith performed "God Bless America" every week on her radio show from 1938, selling nearly 400,000 pages of sheet music. On March 21, 1939, she recorded both that song and "The Star Spangled Banner" for RCA Victor, which also became an instant hit.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 788-790. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.
She was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 6157 Hollywood Boulevard and for Radio at 6145 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Pictured on a 44ยข USA commemorative postage stamp issued 27 May 2010.
Smith was a staunch conservative Republican.

Personal Quotes (2)

This year, with the war clouds of Europe so lately threatening the peace of the entire world, I felt I wanted to do something special - something that would not only be a memorial to our soldiers - but would also emphasize just how much America means to each and every one of us ... The song is 'God Bless America'; the composer, Mr. Irving Berlin. When I first tried it over, I felt, here is a song that will be timeless - it will never die - others will thrill to its beauty long after we are gone. In my humble estimation, this is the greatest song Irving Berlin has ever composed ... As I stand before the microphone and sing it with all my heart, I'll be thinking of our veterans and I'll be praying with every breath I draw that we shall never have another war... -- KS introducing "God Bless America" on her radio show, Armistice Day, November 11, 1938
[An upbeat reference to her weight] Did you get the entire picture on one plate?

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