Gold Fields out in Nome
It's 1918. At Camp Upton, located on Long Island at Yaphank, New York, America is organizing soldiers to fight over there in Europe.
But this hymn-like tune doesn't seem to be an appropriate cap for the final scene of the determined departing soldiers. After one rehearsal, you set it aside and replace it with We're on Our Way to France.
Now it's 1938. Chamberlain has just tried to appease Hitler at Munich, but the clouds of another world war are threatening. You try to write about your feelings. The 20-year-old God Bless America would fit the bill. A few revisions are necessary.
To the right had implied the righteous road in 1918, but now it suggests the right-wing Fascists. You substitute through the night.
We had been at war in 1918, but now you want a song of peace, and Make her victorious on land and foam doesn't fit. Perhaps instead you can boast of America's wide expanse, including its green agricultural lands as well as the riches from the Alaska gold rush you remember hearing about as a young Russian immigrant named Israel Beilin.
Finally, the replacement line has to rhyme with my home sweet home. A tall order. What rhymes with home? Foam no longer seems right. Comb, chrome, dome, gnome, loam, roam, Jerome, aerodrome?
Wait a moment! You recall that at the far edge of golden Alaska, there's a town called Nome!
the green fields in Virginia
Well ... Alaska isn't even a state, not yet anyway. You scratch out Nome and bring back the foam. In a nod to purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain, you write,
the mountains, to the prairies,
That will do.
The first lady of radio, Kate Smith, needs a patriotic tune for The Kate Smith Hour on the eve of what we now call Veterans' Day, which commemorates the armistice that ended the previous world war. You offer this song. You also write a verse to precede the chorus.
the storm clouds gather, far across the sea,
Nowadays, we rarely hear the storm clouds verse. And even that has been slightly rewritten. Instead of giving isolationist thanks that we're far from there, meaning far away from the war in Europe, we now give thanks for a land so fair.
Listen to Kate introducing the song on November 10, 1938.