A Happy Land. . . Somewhere

Where the skies look down on a friendly town. . .

Where the skies look down on a friendly town. . .(Watercolor by Vernon P. Johnson)

There is a sub-genre of popular music that is called “inspirational music.” And while there are a few exceptions, the perspective of such music is almost exclusively Christian, with its references to church bells, chapels, and cathedrals. Such music includes I Believe In Miracles (1935), There’s A Gold Mine In The Sky (1937), Cathedral In The Pines (1938), God Bless America (1939), Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition (1942), Light a Candle In The Chapel (1942), and Crying In The Chapel (1953), to mention just some of the more popular songs in this genre.

Also in this category is a song written in 1944 by David Kapp, Charles Tobias entitled, Just A Prayer Away. This “inspirational piece” is a World War Two song that declares that the end of the war is “just a prayer away.”

It seems that comedian Eddie Cantor was thinking much the same thing when he declared in a March 1945 radio broadcast the following: “You know victory is just a prayer away. The physical implements of war are speeding to our men in ever-increasing strength. But let us send them, too, the spiritual implements. Our faith, our love, our prayers. Let us go to our churches … now, today, tomorrow. You to yours, I to mine … God is always there … and peace may come one day sooner if you will work for it and pray for it at your church, synagogue and at home. The church lives for you. In lands of tyranny, when all the institutions of civilization – science, art and government – succumbed to the will of the oppressor, it was religion that alone stood out and resisted evil. So let us fill the churches with our prayers for a just and lasting peace … Let our pleas be heard around the world so that within the churches of the conquered countries they will hear and know that a greater day is coming for all people … everywhere. That through prayer we will be united … with peace on earth … and good will toward men of good will.”

Just A Prayer Away reached #4 on the Billboard charts in April, 1945. The big hit recording was that of Bing Crosby, although Sammy Kaye’s version was also popular, peaking at #10 the same year.

In the song, it is the understanding of the narrator that prayer can bring one to a place where that person will be more content:
There’s a happy land somewhere
And it’s just a prayer away
All I’ve dreamed and planned is there. . .
The words sound as if they are an illusion to heaven, but as the song continues, the focus seems to be contentment in the present life. In this happy land:
Where the skies look down on a friendly town
Filled with laughing children at play. . .

Written in 1944, the lyrics appear to be sung from the viewpoint of an American serviceman overseas looking forward to the day when he returns home. He longs for the “somewhere”:
Where my heart will sing, for it means one thing
I’ll be home at the close of each day. . .

It seems a bit ironic to me that the song is so vague about the location of the “happy land somewhere,” considering the narrator’s probable viewpoint and the galvanizing support for our going to a war that was a “just war.” A clear patriotic meaning would have made more sense, given the timing of the song’s release.

Here are the complete lyrics of the David Kapp and Charles Tobias song:
There’s a happy land somewhere
And it’s just a prayer away
All I’ve dreamed and planned is there
And it’s just a prayer away

Where the skies look down on a friendly town
Filled with laughing children at play
Where my heart will sing, for it means one thing
I’ll be home at the close of each day
There’s a happy land somewhere
And it’s just a prayer away

(Where the skies look down on a friendly town)
(Filled with laughing children at play)

Where my heart will sing, for it means one thing
I’ll be home at the close of each day
There’s a happy land somewhere
And it’s just a prayer away

To listen to a version of the song, click on the song title. To download a song, right click on the song title, then right click on Save target as
Bing Crosby with the Ken Darby Singers, Ethel Smith at the Organ, and Victor Young and his Orchestra Just A Prayer Away
(Swing and Sway with) Sammy Kaye, vocals by Billy Williams and the Kaye Choir Just A Prayer Away

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Filed under Pop Music

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