These days God is mentioned all the time in the press, almost invisibly Premium

04 January 2017 | by Christopher Howse


When the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” was released in 1966, there was uneasiness about how the public would take its invocation of the Deity. Tony Asher, who co-wrote it, later remarked: “Unless you were Kate Smith and you were singing ‘God Bless America’, no one thought you could say ‘God’ in a song.”

Kate Smith, the Songbird of the South, who in 1926 aged 17 weighed in at 15 stone and never looked back, once declared: “I’m big, and I sing, and boy, when I sing, I sing all over!” In the 1943 musical film This Is The Army (with Ronald Reagan), playing herself, she sang “God Bless America” all over, and three decades later the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team attributed a spell of success to her rendition of the song before games.

Anyway, the Beach Boys need not have worried, as few seemed to mind God being mentioned in their song. These days he is mentioned all the time in the press, almost invisibly, embedded in fossilised figures of speech. “Karl Robinson is now in charge,” wrote Rod Liddle of Charlton Athletic in The Sunday Times on the first day of 2017, “but God alone knows for how long.”

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