Pickaninny Heaven

Album: Hello Everybody (1933)
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Songfacts®:

  • "An' now folks, I'm gonn' sing this next song for a lot a li'lle coloured chill'en who are listenin' in an orphanage in New York City. Here yer are, kids"

    So quoth the er, full-bodied and smiling Kate Smith in her introduction to this next song. What do we know about Pickaninny Heaven? Well, according to Miss Smith:

    It's twice as high as the Moon
    You get there in a balloon


    "pickaninny" is a derogatory term for a black child.
  • It is difficult to believe that this song - which includes part of "Old Folks At Home" - was performed as recently as 1933, in the film Hello Everybody in which Smith played herself, and at which time she was the highest paid female star in radio, earning a reputed $3,000 a week - no wonder she was smiling. Hello Everybody is said to have been the most expensive film ever made at the time, costing a cool $2 million. Unsurprisingly, it bombed. Kindly leave the stage. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2
  • Music for this song was written by Arthur Johnston with lyrics by Sam Coslow. They were one of the most popular Broadway teams in the 1930s and 1940s; some of their most popular compositions include "My Old Flame" from Belle of the Nineties and "Cocktails for Two" from Murder at the Vanities, both in 1934. They were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.
  • Smith's legacy was impugned in 2019 when it came to light that she performed racist songs, including this one and another called "That's Why Darkies Were Born" ("Someone had to pick the cotton, Someone had to pick the corn..."). On April 19 2019, the New York Yankees baseball team stopped playing her rendition of "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch, a tradition since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Philadelphia Flyers hockey team also stopped playing her version of the song and covered up a statue of Smith outside the stadium.

Comments: 2

  • William Sanders from New YorkIf Smith is fair game for ''Darkies,'' why not famed American singer, Paul Robeson, who is credited as Producer of the Smith recording, and who also recorded that song? Is it because he was black?
  • Bd from VicksburgGod bless America and Kate Smith!
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