BORN TO SING

BORN TO SING

From A Second Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul

Born to Sing

The girl seemed born to sing. She had such a perfect sense of pitch that in her later years, she could tell when one player out of an entire orchestra played a wrong note. She never took singing lessons and she never learned to read music—she learned “by ear.”

At the age of fourteen, the young girl developed gland trouble, which caused her to gain weight. As she continued to gain, the children at school began to tease her. Upset, she would hurry home from school, shut herself in her room and cry. This pattern continued and her family worried about her spending so much time alone. Her grandmother urged her to forget about her weight and to concentrate on developing her lovely voice.

She took her grandmother’s advice, and before long she was winning prizes at the amateur nights put on by the local theater. More than anything else, the girl wanted to become a professional singer, but her parents thought it would be better if she studied nursing. They thought her enormous size might be too much of a handicap for a successful stage career.

She started nurses’ training, but she longed to be singing instead. Finally, she decided to give up nursing and pursue her dreams. In her heart, she believed that people would forget her looks when they heard her voice.

She went to Broadway and soon she got a small part in a musical comedy. She was thrilled with the opportunity to sing, but she was cast with a man whose part called for him to make jokes about her weight.

The jokes brought down the house with laughter. The young woman was deeply hurt inside, but she refused to give up. She had signed a contract and so she stayed with the show through its run on Broadway.

One night, she received a note backstage saying that a man would like to see her. At first she was afraid it might be one of those jokers who delighted in taking her to a fancy restaurant, urging her to eat a great deal, and then laughing with his friends about it later.

But themanwhowantedtoseeher thatnight changedher life.

He was Ted Collins, of the Columbia Record Company. He became her manager and lifelong friend, encouraging and guiding her through the many happy years of her subsequent singing career.

First, she made records for Columbia. Later, her big opportunity came when she was asked to broadcast a radio show. Soon, the whole country was singing her theme song, “When theMoon Comes Over theMountain.” And it was her rendition of “God Bless America” thatmade it America’s “second national anthem.”

By 1940, she was topping all the radio polls in the country. When television came, she was offered the chance to have her own show. But on television she would be seen by millions of people. She thought of the early days, when audiences had laughed at her because she was so fat. Why should she take a chance that it might happen again? She didn’t need the money—radio had made her both wealthy and famous.

It was her tremendous love of singing that gave her courage and she decided to take the risk. Almost at once her rich voice won her the admiration of television audiences, and a new generation began humming, “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain.”

Eventually, because she radiated such warmth, sincerity and charm, she became a symbol of the things people love about our country—generosity, kindness and good will towards all people.

It was no wonder that when President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced her to King George and Queen Elizabeth, he said:

“This is Kate Smith. This is America.”

Ravina Gelfand and Letha Patterson

Submitted by Oscar H. Greene

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