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 Kate Smith

Kate Smith

Birth
Greenville, Augusta County, Virginia, USA
Death 17 Jun 1986 (aged 79)
Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina, USA
Burial Lake Placid, Essex County, New York, USA
Memorial ID 2236 · View Source
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Singer. A popular singing icon of the Depression and World War II eras, she best known for her renditions of patriotic anthems, most notably her definitive version of "God Bless America," which she originally introduced for Irving Berlin in 1938. Known as "The Songbird of the South" and "The First Lady of Radio", she was Born Kathryn Elizabeth Smith in Greenville, Virginia in 1907. She initially trained to be a nurse but began singing professionally in theatres and at nightclubs during the early 1920s, soon relocating to New York City, New York to pursue roles in vaudeville and on Broadway theatre, where she appeared in "Honeymoon Lane" in 1926 and later in "Hit the Deck" and "Flying High." Her loud contralto voice made her very popular, and she was soon discovered by Columbia Records V.P. Ted Collins, who later became her manager. Signing with Columbia in 1927, debuting with "One Sweet Letter from You," backed by Red Nichols' “Charleston Chasers” band. In 1931 she began hosting her own radio show on CBS; its theme song, "When the Moon Comes over the Mountain," which subsequently became her first major recording hit, selling some 19 million copies. She was an immediate success on the air and her vaudeville act soon broke the record for longevity at New York's legendary Palace Theatre. In 1932, Smith had a second successful song with "River, Stay 'Way from My Door," recorded with Guy Lombardo and “His Royal Canadians”; they later backed her on "Too Late," another Top Ten success released that same year. In all, she recorded two dozen hits for Columbia between 1927 and 1946. Throughout the Depression era, she became a national icon in 1938, when she recorded Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" for RCA Victor; within a year its success established it as an unofficial national anthem, and upon the United States' entrance into World War II it re-entered the charts in both 1940 and 1942. In 1940 Kate and Ted Collins incorporated as Kated. This corporation, which produced her shows and others, bought a professional basketball team, the Kate Smith Celtics, and made its partners millionaires. During World War II, Kate Smith performed on two around-the-clock radio marathons to sell war bonds, which she eventually sold over $600 million dollars worth. She had America's most popular radio variety hour, "The Kate Smith Hour," which aired weekly from 1937 to 1945. At the same time she had the Number 1 daytime radio show, the midday "Kate Smith Speaks," a news and commentary program. In 1950 Kate Smith went on television with a Monday-Friday afternoon variety show, "The Kate Smith Hour" (1950 to 1954). It proved so popular that NBC gave her a prime-time show on Wednesday evenings, "The Kate Smith Evening Hour." In addition to her stage and radio popularity, Smith also appeared in films, starring in "The Big Broadcast" (1932) and "This Is the Army" (1943) with Ronald Reagan. Upon the 1964 death of her longtime manager Ted Collins, Smith settled into semi-retirement, and greatly reduced her performing schedule in subsequent years. Her last television series was CBS's "The Kate Smith Show," a weekly half-hour musical series in 1960. She made many guest appearances on top television shows, such as "The Ed Sullivan Show," "The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show", "The Jack Paar Show," ABC Hollywood Palace," "The Andy Williams Show," "The Tony Orlando and Dawn Show," " The Dean Martin Show," "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," and "The Donny & Marie Show." In the 1960s she began making LP albums, scoring such best sellers as "Kate Smith at Carnegie Hall" (1963), "How Great Thou Art" (1965), and "America's Favorites: Kate Smith/Arthur Fiedler/Boston Pops" (1967). Her last public performance was her rendition of "God Bless America" on a bicentennial television special just before July 4, 1976. Later in her life she had an unusual aspect of her career begin when the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League began playing her rendition of “God Bless America” instead of the National Anthem before some of their games, and that the Flyers won most of those games. Thus, she became a sort of good luck charm for the team, and made several live performances of the song before Flyers games, including a few during Stanly Cup playoff games. Rendered a sports icon in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, recordings of her singing “God Bless America” are still played before games, and the team erected a statue of her near the arena where they play. On October 26, 1982 President Reagan awarded Smith the Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor. After a lifetime of struggling with her weight and decades of related health problems, Kate Smith died from complications of diabetes on June 17, 1986 in Raleigh, North Carolina at age 79. She was inducted posthumously into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1999.

Bio by: Edward Parsons


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 2236
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Kate Smith (1 May 1907–17 Jun 1986), Find A Grave Memorial no. 2236, citing Saint Agnes Cemetery, Lake Placid, Essex County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .