03:27 - Source: CNN
Famous 'God Bless America' rendition banned over singer's racist past
CNN  — 

Despite recent controversy over the racist lyrics in some of Kate Smith’s 1930s-era recordings, the mayor of a New Jersey beach town says his city will continue to play her rendition of “God Bless America” every day.

Smith’s version of the patriotic tune is one of three songs played at 11 a.m. daily during the busy beach season in Wildwood, New Jersey. Beachgoers on the boardwalk often stop to listen to the National Anthem, “God Bless America” and Wildwood’s own anthem, “Wildwood Days” by Bobby Rydell.

Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. says the lineup will not change.

“This is tradition,” he told CNN of the boardwalk music program, saying it dates back 30 or 40 years. “I think it’s the greatest version of the song.”

The mayor says he’s gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback, via emails and phone calls from all over the country, supporting him.

Wildwood is even open to giving a home to the Kate Smith statue that was recently removed from outside the Philadelphia Flyers stadium, with most respondents to a city social media poll about adopting the statue in favor, Troiano said.

“Somebody asked me if the statue was to become available would you take it? I said, yeah, I probably would.”

Smith, who died in 1986, performed “God Bless America” at Flyers games in the 1970s, and the franchise continued to play her rendition at home games as recently as this season. But the team last week announced it would no longer play the Smith recording and would remove her statue after it discovered some of her other songs contained racist lyrics and sentiments that were “incompatible” with its values.

“The NHL principle ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ is at the heart of everything the Flyers stand for,” Flyers President Paul Holmgren said in a statement. “As a result, we cannot stand idle while material from another era gets in the way of who we are today.”

The New York Yankees said Smith’s iconic 1939 version of “God Bless America,” which had been a fixture at home games since the attacks of September 11, 2001, had been pulled from Yankee Stadium on April 1, three games into the season.

“There’s an underlying current here of trying to change history. You don’t change history, you understand it and you learn and look back and see if you can make it better,” Troiano told CNN. “Should we get rid of the Declaration of Independence that was written by a slave owner?”

Smith’s niece, Suzy Andron, reportedly has insisted that neither Smith nor her songs were racist.