God Bless America—or, Mose and His Big Jewish Nose


Today is the 4th of July, so it’s time to join a rousing chorus of that great patriotic American anthem, “When Mose with His Nose Leads the Band.”

What, you never heard of it? Maybe you know the tune by a different name: “God Bless America.” Sure, the 2 songs share only 6 notes. (skip to 0:53 to hear them!) But they’re the most important and familiar 6 notes in the whole song.

You probably know that “God Bless America” was written by the legendary Jewish tunesmith, Irving Berlin (née Israel Beilin). And you might know the song became popular during World War II, when it was sung by American songbook star Kate Smith.

What you likely don’t know is that Berlin borrowed the first 6 notes – the ones behind the words “God bless America” – from the chorus of a minor 1906 vaudeville hit about a Jewish bandleader with a prominent schnoz.

A blatant stereotype, yes, but also a neat little musical phrase which, today, is sung at every baseball and hockey game in America. All hail Mose!

Cue the fireworks.

Watch Kate Smith belt “God Bless America.”

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