AMERICAN MUSIC DURING WORLD WAR I, WORLD WAR II AND VIETNAM By Alex Margolis, Horace Greeley H.S.
During the Civil War, when soldiers from different states with varying music backgrounds came together, they brought their music and when combined, created the style and songs we know today as “American Music” Dixie Battle Hymn of the Republic When Johnny comes Marching Home Battle Cry of Freedom While these songs are not ones usually associated with WWI, WWII or Vietnam, their tune and style influenced future American “war” music, including that of the three wars.
AMERICAN NEUTRALITY When war broke out in Europe, Americans recognized the hard work England was doing on the other side of the pond. In the first two years of the war, Americans for the most part were not willing to send their boys off but supported what Britain was doing against the central powers. “It’s a long way to Tipperary” was written in honor of the British fight. Tipperary is actually in Ireland and the Tipperary Guards were “militiamen” of Ireland who were called up to fight the Central Powers <----
AMERICAN NEUTRALITY (cont.) Americans had been involved in the Spanish-American War and the mess in Philippines 15 years prior to WWI and were not in the mood to send their boys to die again. Isolationism was not unpopular. A very popular song reflecting the public’s attitude was “Don’t Take My Darling Boy Away”. The mother in this song is begging the captain not to take her last son as she has already lost her husband and other three sons in service to the country. The song shows how Americans did not feel the war was on in which they should send their family over to fight in.
“A mother was kneeling to pray For loved ones at war far away And there by her side, her one joy and pride, knelt down with her that day… The song continues to describe the mother’s horror at having the face the reality that she might lose her husband and all sons to fight in a war that was “wrong” Don't take my darling boy away from me, Don't send him off to war You took his father and brothers three, Now you've come back for more
As Germany increased its submarine warfare against all ships, both civilian and military, Americans became more and more willing to enter the war. Then the Zimmerman telegraph, which at first was believed to be a fraud, made way for a huge amount of anti German sentiment in the United States and on April 6, 1917, Congress declared war on Germany. The popular music went from anti-involvement to patriotic and ready to fight the enemy. There was a shift from songs like “Don’t Take My Darling Boy Away” to tunes such as “Liberty Bell” and “America, Here’s My Boy” Americans Lean Towards War
THEN NOWNOW Much like the North in the beginning of the Civil War, Americans believed once they arrived in Europe, the Germans would run away. Of course, once they the soldiers started living in the trenches, it became a different story. “America, Here’s My Boy” provided Americans with the tempo and lyrics that they wanted to hear at the time. “Place a gun upon his shoulder, He is ready to die or do”
Jazz in WWI Many African Americans fought in WWI, though they were in segregated units. Within their units, they brought their own music to Europe in the form of Jazz. When first landing in France, an African American Jazz band played a jazz form of La Marseillaise, the national anthem of France. At first the French soldiers were confused then realized the band was playing France’s song and proceeded to salute and gave African American soldiers more respect throughout the war than the soldiers seen back home in the states.
And possibly the most popular and famous American song of The Great War… Johnnie, get your gun, Get your gun, get your gun, Take it on the run, On the run, on the run Make your daddy glad To have had such a lad. Tell your sweetheart not to pine, To be proud her boy's in line. Hear them calling, you and me, Every son of liberty. Hurry right away, No delay, go today,
George Michael Cohan, the writer of “Over There”, was born July 3, 1878. Prior to WWI, he was very successful, writing songs for Broadway such as “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. Cohan wrote this famous song while onboard a train in his daily commute to New York City. First performed at a Red Cross fundraiser in 1917 where it was sung by Charles King. President Wilson described the song as "a genuine inspiration to all American manhood”. By the end of the war, two million pieces of sheet music were sold and Cohan was awarded an honorary Congressional medal.
11:00 AM on 11/11/1918 - The Great War Ends Like most other wars, Americans were extremely happy to see their boys again. There were celebrations in the street and the day would be remembered as Armistice Day. Soon after, Bud Green wrote the lyrics to “Welcome Home”. In the album cover, the returning solider is portrayed in an almost angelic or godly like figure as according to the song “Each baby will be glad to see her fighting dad and this whole nation's proud to see you here.”
Dec. 7, 1941“A date which will live in infamy” In the early afternoon, 23 years after the end of the “the war to end all wars”, a radio listener in the United States may have been listening to any radio station when the news flash came in that America was no longer excluded from the war happening in Europe and Asia. It wasn’t long until songs starting coming out about the event, only 10 days for the first of many to be recorded. After the loss of 2,300 soldiers and sailors, America began putting out the patriotic songs, much like it had done in WWI. Pearl Harbor Attacked
Home Radio and WWII While radio communication was invented in the 19th century and was used for military purposes in World War I, it didn’t become widespread in homes until the 1920s and 30s. Throughout the war, the government used the radio to broadcast propaganda and news. The radio also allowed to the music of the time to be heard by a wider audience which allowed music to have even more of an influence on American society. Not until the television became popular a little more than a decade later, radio became the dominant source for news and later on, music.
Sammy Kaye born in 1910, was a conductor of during the “big band” era in which jazz and swing were popular. He performed with such stars as Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Kaye wrote a song appropriately titled “Remember Pearl Harbor”, a rally cry as can be seen by the cover, tempo and lyrics… “Let’s remember Pearl Harbor, as we go to meet the foe”
The attack on Pearl Harbor awoke the “sleeping giant” and immediately created a pro-war and anti-Japanese sentiment within the United States. War on Japan was declared the day after. There were no popular anti-war movements as there were in the first world war and the music in this case reflected it perfectly here as posters show American’s wanting to hit back at the “Japs”. “Remember Pearl Harbor” was followed by a number of very popular patriotic American songs. Not only was “Remember Pearl Harbor” one of the first WWII battle songs, but it was one of the most famous, (#3 on the charts within weeks) broadcasted heavily and often sung at social events.
“Kaye’s “Remember Pearl Harbor” was not the only patriotic song at the time by any means. Soon after Pearl Harbor, Frank Loesser wrote the music and words to “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition”. The song is not only patriotic but with the lyrics and tempo, proves itself to be a very good morale booster. The lyrics say to “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition and we’ll all stay free”. During the time when this song was recorded in 1942, Americans were gearing up and preparing for war. This song reflects American’s motivation and teamwork to support the troops so everyone can “all stay free”.
While most American’s happily prepared to go to war and many enlisted, the time came where the boys stated to be missed and the boys missed back home. In 1944, Frank Loesser, writer of “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition”, wrote “First Class Private Mary Brown”, telling the story of a fictional soldier who met a very attractive female soldier as he was being shipped off to fight and can’t wait to return to see her again. Frank Loesser The song reflects many soldier’s eagerness to go home to see their family, wives, girlfriends, and home in general.
“Oh there’ll be bluebirds over, the white cliffs of Dover” Much like the song “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” in WWI, “There'll Be Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover” is a song written appreciating the fight the Brits were carrying out against Hitler. Dover and its famous white cliffs are located southeast England, the closest city to mainland Europe and Hitler’s air raids. This song, originally written by Nat Burton, became very popular and was covered by many artists, including Glenn Miller and Kate Smith.
Women in the War As the men went off to fight the Nazis and Japanese, women came to the factories to fill their places. This famous painting ---> by J. Howard Miller, represents “Rosie the Riveter” the strong, competent female defense worker. As songs were being recorded about the men going off to war, one song was written about the women going off the factories, called “Rosie the Riveter”.
“Rosie the Riveter” by Redd Evans and John Jacob Leob "All the day long, Whether rain or shine, She's a part of the assembly line. She's making history, Working for victory, Rosie the Riveter. Keeps a sharp lookout for sabotage, Sitting up there on the fuselage. That little girl will do more than a male will do."
Benny Goodman As the war was coming to a close, Benny Goodman, a famous Jazz musician, wrote My Guy's Come Back, a song from the point of a view of a soldier’s girlfriend or wife, overjoyed with her partner’s return. “…No more blues for me, no more no more, Just good news for me, Just good news in the store…”
1954: French pull out of Indochina 1963: Number of U.S. military advisors in S. Vietnam reaches 15,000 1964: Gulf of Tonkin incident, U.S. retaliates with air strikes against N. Vietnam 1965: 180,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam… 1968: that number reaches 525,000 1969: Massive Anti War protests pick up…
The Vietnam War on the home front was unlike any other American war. Within months of first committing troops to Vietnam, protests began. The catalyst was a “teach in” at the University of Michigan (March 25, 1965), where lectures talked to students about the problem with America getting involved with Vietnam and on April 17 of the same year, around 20,000 students gathered for the first of many protests in Washington D.C. The “hippie” movement began during this time period and nearly all the popular songs of the era were anti-war and remained that way until the war ended.
“Country” Joe McDonald led his band “The Fish” in singing “I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag”. Joe McDonald served in the Navy in Vietnam, for two years before the song was written in 1965. The relatively early date the song was released combined with the eye witness writing made the song very popular. It was played at Woodstock in 1969. “And it's one, two, three, What are we fighting for ? Don't ask me, I don't give a damn, Next stop is Vietnam; And it's five, six, seven, Open up the pearly gates, Well there ain't no time to wonder why, Whoopee! we're all gonna die.” The song blames the politicians for the trouble that draftees, trapped in “the system” have to go through and justifies their wanting to escape it.
Or otherwise known as simply “Creedence” was one of the most active anti war bands at the time. One of their most famous, and still remains popular to this day is “Fortunate Son”. The lyrics tell in first person of someone who has just been drafted and strongly opposed the idea. While the song criticized the “system”, it supports the actual soldiers. The song is still used in anti-war movements as its lyrics are against war but at the same time, its tempo very motivating Some lyrics include: Yeh, some folks inherit star spangled eyes, ooh, they send you down to war, Lord, Some folks are born silver spoon in hand, Lord, why don't they help themselves? oh. But when the taxman come to the door, Lord, the house look a like a rummage sale, yes, It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate one, NO NO
twewetwetwt Woodstock, August, 1969 The Woodstock festival, actually held in Wallkill, NY, is considered to be the most famous music festival of all time. Taking place in 1969, near the height of the Vietnam War with approximately half a million young, “hippie” attendees, was iconic of the very strong anti war feeling of the time. Some musical performers included Jimi Hendrix (who’s cover of the “Star Spangled Banner” is playing now), Joe McDonald, Credence, Grateful Dead and others, all influential artists at the time.
In early May in 1970, protests against military action in Cambodia took place over the course of a few days at Kent State University. When the protests turned violent, the Ohio National Guard was called in. Four students were killed when novice troops fired into the crowed. Two of the four students were not part of the protest, but were actually walking to class Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (CSNY) wrote “Ohio”, commemorating the dead students and aggressively protesting the actions taken by the Guard. Another song in protest of the U.S. Military at the time. “Gotta get down to it Soldiers are cutting us down Should have been done long ago...”
The music produced during WWI, WWII and especially Vietnam have had an impact on our popular music today. The Vietnam War allowed the new “rock and roll” to develop to almost the point that it’s at today. The change style of the songs over the course of these three wars is clear. Going from upbeat and patriotic to anti-war and anti-authority. One thing is clear. Music will continue to shape and reflect American’s attitude towards the wars they send their boys to fight in.
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