Give the World a Smile

Give the World a Smile

“Give the World a Smile” was the theme song for the Stamps Quartet, and probably the first Gospel song to become a “gold record.”

According to Otis Deaton , in November 1924, he and M. L. Yandell were students at the Stamps School of Music in Jacksonville, Texas. Yandell wrote a tune and asked James Rowe if he would write words for it. Rowe was not able to come up with suitable words, so Yandell asked Deaton, and Deaton wrote lyrics called “Keep the Song Wave Rolling On,” but when they showed this song to V. O. Stamps, he pointed out that there was already a similar song by H. W. Elliott. Deaton then wrote the lyrics for “Give the World a Smile.” V. O. paid each of them $5.00 cash for the song.

Deaton’s recollection concludes, “So I never sold the words nor assigned them to anyone. I gave V. O. permission to print the song. The next year, 1925, Frank Stamps and the Wheeler Brothers recorded it on Victor label, and that’s how ‘Give the World a Smile’ was born.” ["Gospel Music Hi-Lites", August 1966, page 12. This ephemeral publication is available in microform at the library of the Indiana University School of Music, Bloomington, Indiana]

The basic lyrics for the chorus are:

Give the world a smile each day

Helping someone on life's way

From the paths of sin oh bring the wanderers in

To the master's fold to stay

Help to cheer the lone and sad

Help to make some pilgrim glad

Let your life so be that all the world might see

The joy of serving Jesus with a smile.

The United States copyright status of this song is not clear. Assuming it was first copyrighted in 1924, it would have been eligible for renewal in 1952 (28 years after its first copyright). If it was renewed in 1952, it will enter public domain in 2019 (95 years after its first copyright), but if it was not renewed in 1952, it is now in public domain. A search of the Library of Congress web site shows that there have been later attempts to copyright this song. [ [ Simple Search ] ] Most of them are arrangements, copyrights on collections (which do not alter the copyright status of songs in the collection, or sound recordings, but some appear to be attempts to re-copyright the original song as part of a large accumulation of songs. It should be kept in mind that only the original copyright and any 1952 renewal are valid.

The song, as sung by the Corley Family (in a style that might be called "folk-primitive")can be heard on-line. [ [ Musical Gems From Public Domain 4U ] ] More recently it has been recorded by a number of different Gospel quartets.


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