With this week’s feature of “God Bless America” ukulele tutorial, let us learn another patriotic song. “God Bless America” is another favorite 4th of July song. The great composer Irving Berlin wrote the song more than a century ago.
In case you missed last week’s ukulele tutorial for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” check it out here. Or browse through our blog main page for more ukulele lessons for beginners.
Also, join our mailing list here and get weekly updates of ukulele tutorials and tips including sheet music with lyrics and chords as well as ukulele tabs.
GOD BLESS AMERICA UKULELE TUTORIAL – CHORDS AND STRUMS
“God Bless America” ukulele tutorial is easy for beginner ukulele players as you’ll need just four chords. And these are: F, C, Bb and C7.
The chord shapes for F, C and C7 are fairly easy ones. However, making the Bb chord is a bit tricky. First, you’ll need to bar the lower two strings on the first fret using your index finger. Then press your middle finger on the third string (or C string) on the second fret. Thirdly, place your ring finger on the uppermost string (or G string) on the third fret. Because the index finger is somewhat bent awkwardly while barring the bottom two strings, this chord shape can be quite challenging to make. But with lots of practice, you’ll be on your way to conquering the Bb chord.
As for the strumming, Jenny uses a simple four downs per measure pattern.
GOD BLESS AMERICA – SONG HISTORY
Irving Berlin, one of America’s greatest songwriters, wrote “God Bless America” in 1918. He intended the song to be the finale of a musical show he produced while serving in the military at Camp Upton. However, he realized the song did not actually fit the final scene and so replaced it with a different one.
Twenty years later, Berlin rewrote the song before the onset of World War II. In a letter that Berlin wrote in 1954, he emphasized “rewrote” as there were significant changes with the original composition and the 1938 version. Berlin planned the 1918 original to be a war song as denoted by the lyrics ‘make her victorious on land and foam’. However, in 1938, Berlin wanted the song to convey peace. Hence, he modified some of the lyrics. For instance, the previously mentioned line became ‘from the mountains to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam’.
GOD BLESS AMERICA – ‘A SONG THAT WILL NEVER DIE’
In 1938, Ted Collins approached Berlin for a song that can be sung by his talent, Kate Smith, for Armistice Day. Berlin remembered his “God Bless America” song from 1918 and rewrote it to be a song of peace. According to Berlin, if not for Collins, the song might have remained ‘a war song, unpublished and unsung’.
As Collins did request Berlin for a patriotic song, “God Bless America” went on to be introduced to the public by Kate Smith on November 10, 1938. Smith sang the song on The Kate Smith Hour, a program on CBS Radio. Additionally, she began the song with a preface giving praise to Berlin and the composition which she hailed as ‘a song that will never die’. Indeed, a hundred years after it was first conceptualized, “God Bless America” remains to be a popular song. It is performed during American patriotic holidays, sports events, political rallies and other gatherings.
Learn more about our ukulele hymn kits here.