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American Patriotic Pieces and Americana
This is the piece that Americans love to hate. The National Anthem; the piece requiring a vocal range that the average citizen will never quite attain; the predecessor to the words "Play ball!"; and also a matter of continuing controversy. A brief history: In 1814, about a week after the city of Washington had been rather badly burned, British troops worked their way up to the primary port at Baltimore Harbor in Maryland. Francis Scott Key
had visited the British fleet in the Harbor on September 13th to try to secure the release of Dr. William Beanes
who had been captured during the Washington raid. In spite of his success in doing so, the two were detained on the ship so as not to warn the Americans while the Royal Navy attempted to bombard Fort McHenry. At dawn on the 14th, Key noted that the huge American flag, which now hangs in the Smithsonian's American History Museum
, was still waving, and had not been removed in defeat. Inspired, he wrote a poem entitled Defense of Fort McHenry
. It was soon after married to a British drinking song (the irony!) called To Anacreon in Heaven
, arranged and possibly composed by John Stafford Smith.
From the time of its first publication, this piece was considered by many in and out of power as an inspiring song that should be the national anthem of the United States of America. It was accepted as such by public demand for the next century or so, but there is one stirring event that codified its place in American history. It was during the World Series of Baseball in 1917 that the piece was sung in honor of the brave armed forces who had recently gone over to Europe to fight in the Great War. This performance so moved everyone in attendance that it was repeated for every game thereafter, and by the end of the following season had become a staple at baseball games all around the United States. Finally, on March 3, 1931, the American Congress voted the tune as the national anthem, over 116 years after it was first composed.
From a personal standpoint, and the views of many others who have made their opinions known over the years, there are more prudent choices than a song about the violence of war which ends with a question mark and is set to a melody meant for consuming alcohol that would better serve as both a singable and laudable representation of the United States of America. However, since both America the Beautiful and God Bless America refer to God in the lyrics, they have often been struck down as "unconstitutional". By this logic, the Constitution of the United States is also in itself "unconstitutional." Even the Star Spangled Banner has "In God we will trust" in the lyrics. Still, there is something inspiring about the general sentiment of The Star Spangled Banner and its reference to a turning point in American history. Perhaps in the future, keener minds may see it from a more logical perspective. In light of recent national tragedies, baseball is again leading the way by replacing Take Me Out to the Ball Game with God Bless America in the seventh inning stretch, giving Banner a run for its money. Even members of the American Congress chose this piece over the anthem during a spontaneous performance while addressing the aftermath of the tragic incidents of 2001. While my performance is not so radical as that of the legendary Jimmy Hendrix at the conclusion of Woodstock in August 1969 or the many that have tried to contemporize it in varying public venues, it is a concert arrangement that initially echoes the simplicity of the original tune, and later musically recounts the events that led to the inception of the lyrical content. Oh say, can you listen?
Dr. Richard Schackburg (L) to Traditional Tune - c.1755
This well-known ditty reflects the difficulty of separating British culture from American culture at a time when the desire to do so was very strong. In fact, like many other tunes, it was partially written and made popular by the British. The word Yankee had been bandied about since the middle of the seventeenth century. The best accounts of origin credit a mispronunciation of the noun "English" by Native Americans, often coming out Yengees. Some American colonists and many British troops caught on to this usage quickly, and the troops used it in a derogatory sense to refer to the colonists. It is thought that in 1755 a British physician, Dr. Richard Schackburg, was treating a wounded prisoner from the ongoing French and Indian war, and composed the piece to an established British/Irish/Dutch/New England (you pick) gigue. "Doodle" was included to refer to the Yankees as do-nothing fools. "Dandy" is one who is, or in this case aspires to be, among the best dressed of the boys, and in some cases it intimates an effeminate air. The earliest lyrics derided the disorganized dress of Colonist militiamen in contrast to the uniformed Brits. Over the next 20 years the verses escalated until the skirmish at Lexington and Concord in 1775, when Colonist militia forced the British back towards Boston, singing the tune in defiance of the aggressors. It was the first known American verse sung at Bunker Hill which appeared in all early printings of the song, albeit with a chorus melody altered significantly from the one that had been established by the 1830s. It runs:
Father and I went down to camp, along with Captain Good'in,
And there we see the men and boys as thick as hasty puddin'.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up, Yankee Doodle Dandy,
Mind the music and the step, and with the girls be handy.
In short order, as the Revolutionary war progressed, verses in honor of General Washington and his men were added and retained throughout the colonies. Considered by many as the first unofficial national anthem, Yankee Doodle was reportedly played at Yorktown when Lord Cornwallis surrendered in 1777.
Since that time it has been a purely American tune, seeing dozens of printings in various guises, with perhaps over 60 known verses plus variations. During the American Civil War in the early 1860s, Yankee Doodle became as associated with the Union (North) as the new tune Dixie's Land was with the Confederates (South). It is ironic, but perhaps not entirely coincidental that the two can be played together with great affect, a common pianistic trick in the ragtime era. George M. Cohan revived the popularity of the tune once again in his stage musical Little Johnny Jones in 1904, which again prompted the James Cagney biopic of Cohan in 1942 titled Yankee Doodle Dandy. Even now this ancient melody is used in the media in association with references to the Revolutionary War, and even for commercials for President's Day. The presentation here is in the spirit of many elaborate variations published on the venerable tune over a span of two centuries, but hopefully comes out like a dandy.
Hail to the Chief
James Sanderson (M) and Sir Walter Scott (L) - 1811
The song we recognize as a signal that the U.S. President is about to enter a room actually originated, as so many American patriotic tunes did, in England. The origin starts with Sir Walter Scott's epic poem, The Lady of the Lake
, published in 1810. It was soon selected as material for a play, and one of the segments of the poem, The Boat Song
(which started "Hail to the Chief"), was set to a derivation of an old Scottish anthem by a "Mr. Sanderson", now assumed to be composer James Sanderson. The first American printing by a Mrs. Bradish (the first one at the left) had a different melody than the one commonly known since. But in 1812 the play opened in the New York City, and the song as we know it caught on quickly. In fact, it became the topic of a number of parodies that helped spread the melody even more quickly. It was first used in association with a President on February 22, 1815, at a Boston remembrance of President George Washington
, with a lyric titled Wreaths for the Chieftan
. The first known use of the tune for a living president was on July 4, 1828, when the Marine Band (the President's Own) performed at groundbreaking ceremonies for the excavation of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal with President John Quincy Adams
in attendance. In 1845, Sarah Polk
, wife of newly elected President James Polk
, concerned that her husband's slight stature drew little or no attention to him when he arrived for official ceremonies, instituted the practice of playing the tune whenever the President appeared, one that continues to this day. Even so, many parodies on the lyrics still make the rounds in Washington circles, something that is noted in the James Garner and Jack Lemmon film My Fellow Americans
. The interpretation here is based largely on early 19th century printings of the piece.
America (My Country 'Tis Of Thee)
Samuel Francis Smith (L) - 1831
, a piece that most Americans learned in Kindergarten, shares the equal irony of our National Anthem of being set to an established British tune, in this case the British National Anthem, God Save The King/Queen
. There is no established composer for the tune, which was first published in 1744. However, it was married to several hymn texts over the next century. It was the church connection that brought the tune to the attention of organist Lowell Mason
, a hymn composer of note, who set it with the verses by written by Smith. It was first published in an 1832 hymn collection before it made an appearance as an individual sheet. For a short time, this was one of three pieces in contention for the American National Anthem. However, since all that is played at many ceremonies, such as the Olympic Games or diplomatic occasions, is the melody, it was deemed unfeasible because there was no distinction between it and the British National Anthem. A verse devoted entirely to God's role in our country also rendered it a non-contender. Still, familiarity and an easily learned tune have kept it in the mainstream of American patriotic tunes since its inception. The cover is from an 1861 edition of patriotic melodies.
Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean (The Red, White and Blue)
David Taylor Shaw(?) (M/L) and/or Thomas A. Becket(?) (L) - 1843
This is another example of a superbly melodic and well known piece of which the origins have been lost to time. Starting with the supposed genesis of the tune, it was known to be Britannia, the Pride of the Ocean
prior to 1843 when Columbia
first appeared, and Shaw took credit for it. However, there are no records to be found substantiating the melody in print prior to that time, even in Great Britain, and it may have actually come about from the American version. Becket was a British stage actor, and Shaw was a British singer and stage entertainer. Both claim to have written the piece, and subsequent publications with the names of one or the other, or both credited, bear this out. The most likely scenario that has been established is that Shaw either asked Becket to write lyrics around an idea of his, or that he asked Becket to improve on some lyrics or adapt them to a melody he had written, all for a benefit concert at the Chestnut Street Theater in London. Why either one would have written a patriotic American tune is a mystery in itself. To muddy the waters further, it was first printed as Columbia, the Land of the Brave
in the fall of 1843 and credited to a George Willig
, but only for that particular publication. Britannia
did not appear in print until 1852 in England. In any case, once it was published the tune became a favorite of political and presidential gatherings, particularly during the Civil War. Various incarnations of the third verse reference the Union, likely the Union of the North as opposed to the Confederacy of the South. The concluding chorus of "Red, White and Blue" is conjectured to have been a part of both the British and American versions of the song from the beginning, given that both the Union Jack and Stars and Stripes display those colors on their respective flags.
A note on the use of Columbia. As the Revolutionary War approached, the future U.S. was still simply the Thirteen Colonies with no other distinct name to combine them. In uniting against the advances of Britain, it was discussed in print that some cohesive name should be used to refer to the new country. Given the historical role of Columbus in leading the way to the new world, however incorrect that has turned out to be, poets and writers adapted the feminine form of the name, Columba. For uniqueness and ease of use on the tongue it was soon lengthened to Columbia. At one time, even after the Declaration of Independence, Columbia was considered more a secondary name to the United States of America then the simplified America was. Indeed, when it came time to set aside part of Maryland and Virginia for the Nation's Capital, the name was permanently pressed into service as part of the District of Columbia. Indeed, the name is still in use today, albeit in linkage with the February 1, 2003 tragedy that befell the crew of the now destroyed space shuttle Columbia (STS-107), the first shuttle in full service. But the name will shine yet again in the future.
The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Phillip Simonds (M) and Julia Ward Howe (L) - 1862
It seems that every war the United States has been involved with has yielded some very memorable songs. No war was more horrific for us than our own American Civil War. As a song of inspiration which was needed by many sending their men off to the war, Julia Ward Howe adapted verses in 1861 with a religious message to a popular secular protest song written the previous year, John Brown's Body
. That song was derived from an 1858 Methodist Hymn titled Say Brothers, Will You Meet Us
copyrighted by G.S. Scofield
, plus the popular Glory, Hallelujah
chorus, which remains largely the same. In the early 20th century, musicians in New Orleans took many pieces from the popular liturgy and adapted them for funeral marches and subsequent celebration parades back from the cemetery. This has long been a favorite of traditional jazz bands because of its inherent adaptability. Incidentally, the John Brown mentioned in the earlier incarnation of the tune referred to Sergeant John Brown
who died at Fort Warren in Massachusetts, not the John Brown
famous for his raid on Harper's Ferry, Maryland in 1861.
The Battle Cry of Freedom
George Frederick Root - 1862
This famed anthem of the Union for the Civil War is heard often in the underscore of Ken Burn's
series on that conflict, and still stirs emotions on both sides. Root was on of the more prominent American composers of the era, and turned out many pieces that we still know today. He was also a proponent of early music education in the U.S. Root had moved to Chicago just before the war to join the publishing house of Root and Cady, which his brother had co-founded in 1858. Although the war had been escalating for nearly a year before this piece came into print, it was an eloquent second call for volunteer troops for the Union by President Lincoln that immediately stirred Root into recalling this piece which he had written earlier in the war. With a few refinements it went into print and was a runaway best seller, soon known by nearly every Union soldier and citizen. Famed pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk
revisited the piece in 1864 with a grand concert arrangement of it (Le Cri de Délivrance
). The words and the tune remain true to this day, although it is now not about brothers fighting each other in the same country; it is more about fighting those who want to take freedom away from others, I have taken some liberties with this arrangement, trying to add some war-like overtones with a grand but poignant ending. We'll rally round the flag, boys.
When Johnny Comes Marching Home
Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore (as Louis Lambert) - 1863
One of the few songs about war that is not political and does not particularly glamorize, this popular march tune sets the tone musically for the tragedy of the American Civil War, as for any war. Gilmore was known as one of the most popular bandleaders of his time, later eclipsed by John Philip Sousa
. He entered the war with a Massachusetts regiment in that capacity, and was in charge of all of the Army bands in Louisiana in 1863. During his stay in the south, he held a "monster concert," an event which consists of as many musicians as can be mustered and fit on the stage. The true origin of the tune is unknown, as in spite of Gilmore's authorship claim, it appeared with other lyrics at various times. The interlude that opens the piece and is heard between verses is an air based on the opening notes of the verse. That it became popular at a time when minor songs were rarely played speaks to the combination of melodic and lyrical elements. I have incorporated a few interesting chordal variations within while trying to maintain the constant footfall tempo throughout.
Frank W. Meacham - 1885
There are many of you who will associate this piece with the 1940s recording by the Glen Miller orchestra. However, it is a history that precedes that record by over half a century. Meacham had relatively scant success as a composer under his own name, in spite his being published at the age of 10. In his 20s he wrote a couple of successful waltzes for the famed Patrick Gilmore
band (see previous listing), and was commissioned to write more, often published under names of other composers as opposed to pseudonyms. Meacham gained more fame as an arranger than a composer, part of which is reflected in American Patrol. The opening themes of the piece are his own, and reflect a parade passing through a town. In the middle he inserts a full chorus of Columbia, The Gem of the Ocean
(a.k.a. The Red, White and Blue
), then finishes the parade with one more iteration of his melody and a few pianistic drum cadences. Not published until 1891, this one piece of his was quickly popular, and one of the first hit band recordings on a cylinder in 1903. It sustained popularity through both World War One and World War Two, and is still performed at concerts by the Airmen of Note and many swing groups and marching bands. This version is more faithful to the original and has a bit less swing, but will hopefully stir some great patriotic feelings.
The Washington Post
John Philip Sousa - 1889
Still in publication, the Washington Post
, which the author STILL subscribes to, was indeed the source for the title as well as the inspiration for the march. The Post, in an effort to promote better literacy for American students, had an essay contest for public school students in 1889. In anticipation of the awards ceremony held on June 15th of that year on the grounds of the Smithsonian Institution, Sousa was asked to compose a piece for the occasion. He was fully behind the paper's efforts, and readily obliged with the march heard here. After the initial performance, request for the march steadily increased. There was also a move at that time to find music promote a new dance called the two-step
, and the promoters of this dance picked The Washington Post
as an ideal piece to demonstrate it. As a result, the tune quickly spread to Europe, and there are reports of people yelling out requests for it during many of the Sousa Band's European tours of the 1890s and later. It has been speculated that this one piece helped to replace the formerly popular waltz with the two-step. Ironically, for all of its success, Sousa saw very little compensation from the enormous sales of this piece, which was sold outright to his publisher of the time, something that would be a factor in his decision to leave the Marine Corps to strike out on his own.
The Liberty Bell March
John Philip Sousa - 1893
In 1892, Sousa finally became frustrated with leading the Marine Corps band, and the inherent limitations he encountered with how he could present his own music. In addition, his salary was only $1,500 per year, which, considering the importance of his position as director of the President's own band was negligible for that time. He had also not fared very well with publishers, who profited many times over what he had made on the sale of his popular marches. So Sousa quit the Marine Corps for a second time to strike out on his own. In 1893 he was able to negotiate an equitable agreement with the John Church Publishing Company
that would allow him to see some return for his works. One of the first pieces they published was Liberty Bell
, which became quickly popular, and gained compensation for its composer to the happy tune of about $35,000 over the next decade. His performances at the Chicago's World Exposition of 1893, as well as early cylinder recordings, also helped to boost his notoriety, and the quality of his work. Many may recognize this march as the piece used for the introduction of the famous Monty Python
show of the 1970s.
Song of Freedom
Franz Wald (M) and Florence A. Jones (L) - 1896
The description on the cover touts this as a Patriotic Hymn, and it indeed fulfills that lofty promise. The introduction is described as the ringing of "The Bells of Liberty" played over the left hand melody. Since I have the freedom to do so, I have chosen to use bells to augment the piano part. The simple but elegant chorus, as well as the lyrics, remind me very much of one of the many anthems composed by the late Natalie Sleeth
, a composer familiar to high school and church choirs. This particular piece came in a counter wrapper (the image is displayable in the cover window), designed to segregate a piece from others, as well as keep the cover clean. It indeed kept this particular copy bright and vivid, as seen in the cover image. However, this became impractical over the next few years as the volume of sheet music increased, and as sales were often based on the display of a cover. In these trying times more than a century later, Song of Freedom
is as current in its immediate and reflective tone now as it was when first composed just prior to the Spanish-American war.
The Stars and Stripes Forever
John Philip Sousa - 1897/1898
What could be possibly much more American than a rousing Sousa march. And what better exemplifies the Fourth of July than this one. By his own accord, Sousa conceived Stars and Stripes
late in 1896 while on a ship coming from a European tour. An imaginary band in his head, something that others might find troubling, kept playing the theme over and over during the weeklong trip. So he wrote the themes down while on the voyage and finished the piece, allegedly just as he initially heard it, when he arrived back in the United States. It was an immediate success, and within a few years was featured at band concerts and parades throughout the country on patriotic and military occasions. In fact, the initial reaction was so positive that a year after the first publication he penned some lyrics
to the tune as well. Others have since added nonsense lyrics to the trio, including the famous "Be kind to your web footed friends, for a duck may be somebody's mother!" (covered by Mitch Miller in the 1960s). I believe that two things make this march a standout: the "hummability" of the B and C sections and the boldness of the trio interlude with low brass absolutely raging. Changing of timbres in the orchestration on each iteration of the Trio also enhances the melodic content, especially when the piccolo obbligato is added. This rendition is purely for fun on my part, and I can't help but rag it in a few places. So, "Be kind to your rag playing friends..."
America Forever! March
Edward Taylor Paull (M) and H.A. Freeman (L) - 1898
This is one of Paull's earliest overtly patriotic pieces, likely in response to the sinking of the Maine in the Spanish-American War a month before its publication. America Forever
equals the spirit and general direction of a Sousa
march or one of Cohan's
bombastic flag waving tunes, although it lacks some of the scope of such pieces, having been composed for piano instead of band. It also lacks an interlude in the trio, a feature of many of his better-known marches. The heading under the title quotes the lyrics to My Country, 'Tis of Thee
, and that song, otherwise known as God Save the Queen
, is quoted in full as the last chorus of the march, perhaps one of the first printed military-style renditions of it. Some editions of the cover did not have Paull's picture on it as it is shown here. A song version of the march also appeared for a brief period, as it was the first of two (see We'll Stand by the Flag
) based on a poem by H.A. Freeman
. America Forever
surprisingly did not show up in later folios of Paull's works.
We'll Stand by the Flag
Edward Taylor Paull (M) and H.A. Freeman (L) - 1898
With a conflict in the Philippines turning our way, and the end of the Spanish-American War spearheaded by Teddy Roosevelt
and his Rough Riders, patriotism was on the rise in this country. In advance of George M. Cohan's
flag waving numbers, Paull produced this inspiring march set to a patriotic poem that clearly reflected the overall sentiment of the general population of the United States. The listener should be able to discern just how much this particular march aspires to be a Sousa-like opus. To further tie it in with the current conflict, the original cover shows Admiral George Dewey (Union Navy officer who was responsible for some of the victories of that year) and Fitzhugh Lee (nephew of Robert E. Lee, governor of Virginia, consul to Cuba, and a former General of the Confederacy during the American Civil War) shaking hands in unity. For many, the war that had ended some 33 years prior was still an emotional issue, so there was some possibility of controversy with even this contemporary image. The story carries on to "The Great War", in which Paull reissued some of his best patriotic works along with some new ones. We'll Stand by the Flag
was repackaged with a new cover reflecting the alliance between the Army and the Navy, a salute to the collective American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.).
America the Beautiful
Samuel A. Ward (M) and Katherine Lee Bates (L) - 1904
It was on an inspiring trip by covered wagon, and ultimately by mule to the top of Pike's Peak
near Colorado Springs, Colorado, during the height of mining activity in the Rockies that Katherine Lee Bates and several other school teachers who had come to the community from the East to teach during the summer looked at a vista that extended in all directions. It was July 22, 1893 when they beheld the fields of wheat and hops to the east and southeast, and to the north and west to take in the fabulous Rocky Mountains. Bates, an English professor from Wellesley College in Massachusetts who had already published some poetry, was so inspired that she started a new poem that was later finished after the trip, and would become the lyric for America the Beautiful
. She claims that the poem just welled up inside of her and simply appeared with no effort, although changes were made to it over the next 20 years. After a year of sitting on it she submitted it for publication in a magazine and it soon appeared in other magazines and poetry collections.
In the meantime, actually eleven years prior to the Pikes Pike visit, Samuel A. Ward, inspired by a trip to Coney Island no less, composed a strong and dynamic hymn setting for O Mother Dear Jerusalem, a popular text. He called the melody Materna, possibly in memory of one of his children who had died. It was introduced in his church, and later sung at times by his chorus for the Newark, New Jersey Orpheus Society, which he founded, and still exists today. It found its way into many hymnals in the 1890s and early 1900s, and was a well-established melody.
During this period, many people, largely in churches or those who published folios, set Bates revised version of the poem to music. At one time, there were at least 60 possible settings for the text, a few of which found national popularity. It was supposedly Dr. Clarence A. Barbour who matched the poem to Materna in 1904 using a metrical index (8 6 8 6 8 6 8 6) in a popular hymnal. Other clergyman likely did the same over the next few years, and Materna became one of four or so melodies that stood out above the rest. Bates, for her part, was not concerned so much about the music as the text, and insisted no allegiance to any tune, although she would not budge on any of the words. There was a final revision done to the Materna tune in 1913, the one that survives today. Yet during World War I, it was a competing melody by Will C. McFarlane that was adopted by the military. It lacks the dual dotted rhythms in the first two measures, using one for beautiful, but straight rhythm for spacious, a feature that many musicologists were split on as to which was more effective.
Ironically, it was a contest held in 1927 to find the official tune for the poem, one that had the blessings of the aging Ward, that sealed its fate. By this time Materna had become a favorite, but the sentiment among many was that it was adapted, and not original. However, the four judges who presided over the decision ultimately rejected all 961 entries as falling below the standard required for such lofty lyrics. By default, Materna was the winning tune, and has stayed as such since.
America the Beautiful has since often been discussed by the populous at large, and by the U.S. Congress on at least four occasions, as a viable candidate for the American National Anthem. One word stood in the way of this, the very word that makes American currency and even the Constitution itself allegedly "unconstitutional," and has recently even put the Pledge of Allegiance in jeopardy. The word is God. It is at once practical and unfortunate that this be the case, as this country founded on Biblical principles of freedom allows the freedom for others to not have religion foisted upon them. I personally feel that a country founded on the will of the majority where the majority (80% in 2012) of the populous claims belief in God should make the decision a slam-dunk. The song is still inspiring a century after its publication, as is the view from Pikes Peak. If one wants to take in the same vista, but be kind to their vehicle, the century old cog railway from Manitou Springs to the top is still in operation, and a fabulous family day trip.
The Yankee Doodle Boy
George M. Cohan - 1904
Before Gaga, before Elvis, before Frank, and even before Al, there was George, known as one of the greatest showmen ever, and not afraid to admit it! A precocious member of a theatrical family, Cohan was born in the proverbial trunk. He had already composed several pieces and a couple of barely successful musicals when he wrote the stage show Little Johnny Jones
. It was this effort that made him famous, and yielded at least two hits, the other one being Give My Regards to Broadway
. This piece, better known as Yankee Doodle Dandy
, stirred up mixed reactions from many critics and theatregoers. In spite of recent successes in the Spanish American War, the people were not used to this blatantly ostentatious display of unbounded patriotism. Many came initially just to see what all the fuss was about. By the end of The Great War some fourteen years later, this song along with Grand Old Flag
saw a fervent revival, as did Cohan's career. My version here is orchestrated for sing-along with a brass band.
Give My Regards to Broadway
George M. Cohan - 1904
While The Yankee Doodle Boy
from his stage show Little Johnny Jones
was a lasting hit for Cohan, this song about the "Great White Way," has endured just as well, even though it is not blatantly intended as a flag-waving patriotic number and mentions only one facet of the United States. Still, think about the significance of New York in the global economy, not just now but as far back as 300 years and certainly in 1900. Hollywood would not be established as the "entertainment capitol" for at least another two decades. So the gravitational center of stage entertainment, music publishing, sound recording and general port of entry for the U.S. at that time was New York City, and more specifically, Manhattan Island. Just as the mention of Hollywood would conjure up images of a sunny paradise in the 1920s, New York represented the glitz and glamour of the new century. Cohan's point for this number, which was and remains a true show stopper, is that the mention of Broadway and 42nd street in many parts of the world was significant enough to garner attention, and made those Americans who were abroad wistful for home. The lyrics were even revamped during World War I in conjunction with the release of Over There
to reflect a soldier's point of view. A century later, some of those same Cohan-based musicals and many written in the ensuing century still play in the theaters of Broadway. Now if only it were a little easier to get decent tickets on short notice! Oh Concierge...
You're A Grand Old Flag
George M. Cohan - 1906
Cohan was already THE
big name on Broadway when he cranked out his next hit musical, George Washington Junior
. While still not a musical in the sense of what was later defined by Oklahoma
, Cohan still went beyond simple interpolation of previously composed material to fit a plot. But the songs were more identified for their content than for the character that sang them, in this case being Cohan in the title role. By contemporary accounts he was well worth the price of admission just to watch his abundant patriotism shine forth from the stage. This particularly well known piece was actually born into controversy, since it was originally titled You're A Grand Old Rag
(based on a quote from one of the survivors of Pickett's Charge
at Gettysburg), something that rankled the producers, members of the public, and political leaders. In retrospect, Cohan was showing full reverence to the flag in an offhanded way, but meant no harm. Still, the title was changed about a year after initial release, but the "rag" reference is still in the published lyrics. It is an interesting exercise to compare this with The Yankee Doodle Boy
for their lyrical similarities. This arrangement is orchestrated for brass band, so get ready to march along!
After the triumph of the Spanish-American war, which helped boost Teddy Roosevelt
into the Vice Presidency (later the Presidency through succession), patriotism was an extremely popular topic for songs during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Following right on the heels of George M. Cohan's
powerful The Yankee Doodle Boy
and You're A Grand Old Flag
, and in the tradition of most of John Phillip Sousa's
patriotic marches, Paull managed to outdo all of these in at least the content of the magnificently colored cover rendered by the A. Hoen Company
. The tune is also very rousing, and a literal flag waver, but nobody hums it today like they do the others. To its credit, this march manages to engage at least the average pianist who was able to grasp the somewhat easier patterns than were found in piano rags. These marches were likely played by pre-teen boys of the time before they discovered ragtime. If nothing else, the piece was often purchased for the cover art alone. The printed quote at the top of the tune and the musical quote at the end pay homage to the original banner lyric, Francis Scott Key's The Star Spangled Banner
, written nearly a century prior.
National Emblem March
E.E. (Edwin Eugene) Bagley - 1907
This march is very familiar through its use in movies, circus bands, and patriotic events. The National Emblem of question is, of course, the United States flag, which had only 45 stars at the time of composition. At some point, very much in the way that The Stars and Stripes Forever
acquired it's famous "web footed friends" chorus, National Emblem
managed to have a parody lyric attached to the second section that went, "Oh the monkey wrapped his tail around the flagpole..." which will not be completed as a matter of good taste. The march was reformatted as a song at the end of World War One in 1918, with retrofitted lyrics
by Robert Levenson. The retitled piece was called That's What the Red, White and Blue Means
. There is a good amount of variety in this rousing march, including a paraphrase of The Star Spangled Banner
in the opening section. The second section is broken up by a multi-octave melody at the beginning of each phrase. Then the trio starts with a pulsing march rhythm removing the oom-pah feeling for at least the first half. The end result is a truly nationalistic American march that stands on its own, even when surrounded by Sousa
favorites and familiar European standards.
George M. Cohan - 1917
In the opening scene of Yankee Doodle Dandy
(1942), George M. Cohan
(actor James Cagney
) arrives at the White House to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for his contributions to America's war effort during World War I, and specifically for his inspiring call to arms, Over There
. It was Franklin Roosevelt
himself who had advocated for Cohan in order to bestow the honor on the showman. What is surprising is that this number of Cohan's is one of the only ones that was not specifically included in one of his string of shows that played on Broadway for some two decades. He just sat down wrote this rousing patriotic opus at the beginning of the U.S. entry into the war looking for an inspiring hit, and got so much more. Over There
was first introduced by singer
, although not specifically interpolated into any show she was doing. With Bayes gracing the original cover, Over There
was originally published by William Jerome Publishing
, a firm that Cohan had a financial interest in. Recordings of the piece quickly appeared, and it caught the attention of publisher Leo Feist
, who came up with $25,000 to purchase the rights, exceeding any price previously proffered for a composition. Feist then saw to it that this song became second nature to the public through a campaign of saturation via records, piano rolls, advertising, and most importantly, frequent public performances in support of the war effort. While Feist benefited from the incredible sales of over two million copies, a part of his proceeds and all of Cohan's portion were distributed among various war charities and later to Veteran's organizations. While in Feist's care, no less than three additional covers were offered. One, by Henry Hutt
(not shown) depicted a chorus-line style lineup of soldiers with guns to their shoulders and hats in the air. The most common edition showed Seaman William J. Reilly, U.S.N.
of the U.S.S. Michigan (seen on other pieces as well) smiling at the civilian consumers. The piece was even translated into French to boost overseas sales. However, Feist's greatest sales tactic for a piece that already sold itself was to enlist emerging artist Norman Rockwell
to create a vignette of singing soldiers for what has now become a sought after collectors piece. Rockwell's talent spoke for itself, but his association with this song certainly helped to boost his visibility. Although Cohan died about a year into World War II, the song saw a great revival during that period, helped a great deal by the Cagney movie and its energetic musical productions. Nobody wants a revival of any war, but if the inevitable happens, it certainly could see yet another surge of popularity. After all, we won't come back until it's over over there!
God Bless America
Irving Berlin was no stranger to patriotic tunes, and had written some with references to the military in the past, having been in the American Army during World War One. This, however, was a departure. Not only did the song have religious connotations (based on what our country was founded on), but it had God
in the title. Berlin reportedly wrote it for his Army-financed review Yip Yip Yaphank
in 1918, but withheld the tune from publication or public performance at that time due to its somewhat solemn tone. It was finally introduced to the nation via the radio on the 17th anniversary of the American Armistice Day
, November 11, 1938, by revered singer Kate Smith
and published the following year. Since then, it has easily become the most performed "unofficial" National Anthem, just a little behind the "real" one in performance frequency. It was also featured by Ms. Smith in the 1943 film This Is the Army
, starring George Murphy
and future President Ronald Reagan
. The recording became a million seller almost immediately. In a very generous gesture by the composer/publisher, all proceeds from this tune have since been split evenly between the Boy Scouts of America
and the Girl Scouts of America
. In response to tragic events of September 11, 2001, in the United States, members of Congress chose to sing this number in place of the national anthem while on the steps of the Capitol. And for a time it replace Take Me Out to the Ball Game
during countless seventh inning stretches. What an endorsement! If ever you should run into any detractors concerning this song's status in our nation, note that the Constitution mentions God (making it unconstitutional!), and then... wait for it... Show Them The Money! God Bless America!
A Salute To The Armed Forces
The following five tunes are the official songs for the respective armed forces, available on my American Patriotic CD released in 2000, Patriot's Dreams
The Field Artillery Song (As the Caissons Go Rolling Along)
Major Edmund Gruber - 1908
Self-admittedly not a composer of any merit, Gruber was a member of the U.S. Army 5th Field Artillery Regiment stationed at Fort Stotsenberg on Luzon in the Philippine Islands. He was actually known largely as a training officer who added a great deal of realism to combat exercises. When his Regiment first arrived to relieve the 2nd Battalion from duty, Gruber as the one with the most musical experience was tasked to compose a morale-boosting march for his unit. He was inspired by a training march on the Island during which from a high vantage point the men could not be seen, but he did hear officers encouraging them with "Keep 'em rolling, boys!", a common army phrase of the time. His tune caught on quickly and became the official Army song in the 1920s. John Philip Sousa
was asked to interpolate the chorus into one of his marches, titled the U.S. Field Artillery March
, and features the song as the trio, complete with lyrics.
The Marine's Hymn
Music adapted from Jacqués Offenbach, Lyrics Traditional - c. 1890s
In the century that transpired from the time this piece was first introduced, the meaning of the first line has been lost to many who do not study history. The "Halls of Montezuma" refers to the U.S. Marine entry into Mexico City to end the Mexican-American War by raising the flag there on September 14, 1847. The actual "hall" was the Castle of Chapultepec. The "Shores of Tripoli" come from an earlier conquest, when in 1805 small Marine force ended a war with the Barbary Pirates by capturing Deme and raising the American Flag for the first time in the "Old World". After the war ended in Mexico, the Marine colors were inscribed "To the Shores of Tripoli to the Halls of Montezuma. The name of the Marine who first reversed that phrase and constructed the original verse has been lost. Many more verses have been composed, but only three remain sanctioned by the U.S. The tune is derived from an aria in an opera by Offenbach, Genevieve de Brabant
, which is originally sung by two gendarmes or policemen. The name of the composer who adapted this melody is also lost. The current official version was adopted in 1929 with the only change made since that time an acknowledgement in 1942 of the addition of air support, changing "on the land and on the sea" to "in the air, on land and sea."
The U.S. Air Force (Army Air Corps) Song
Captain Robert Crawford - 1939
Before there was an Air Force, there were naval flyers, and the Army Air Corps. The latter was considered to be a separate division of the Army starting in World War I, but not its own complete entity. However, since there were strafing the skies and did not have boots on the ground, it was fair that they be given their own tune. In 1938, Liberty
magazine sponsored a contest to find an official song for the Army Air Corps. Of 757 scores submitted, music instructor Robert Crawford's was selected by a committee of Army Air Corps wives. It was officially introduced at the Cleveland [Ohio] Air Races on September 2, 1939, where Crawford, known as "The Flying Baritone," sang the debut performance over national radio. The first and only "All-Air Force" Apollo crew of Scott
took the original first page of the score to the moon on Apollo 15 in 1971. The reverent bridge, A Toast to the Host
, is part of an earlier Army Air Corp Song and is also traditionally sung at events where the Army and Navy come together. It commemorates those who have fallen in the name of service to the United States of America, and is therefore a staple at memorial services.
Semper Paratus (Always Ready) (The Coast Guard Hymn)
Words and Music by Captain Francis Saltus Van Boskerck - 1927
Yes, even that oft-forgotten but very deserving branch of the U.S. armed forces, the Coast Guard, has an official song. There is only a little history to this anthem for the "domestic navy" as they have respectfully been referred to. A request was made for the tune around the time of the formation of the official Coast Guard Band in 1926. Captain Francis Van Boskerck's entry was comprised of lyrics he had written in 1922 while stationed on the USCG Yamacraw
in Savannah, Georgia, and music he wrote in 1927 on an old upright in Unalaska, Alaska. That same year it was the top one selected for the organization. He used their motto, "Semper Paratus," which is Latin for "Always Ready," as the basis for the lyrics. It was introduced by the new band in the presence of an aging John Philip Sousa
, who had a hand in helping with the organization of the ensemble. The first verse was revised and a second chorus added in 1943 by Homer Smith
in 1943 during World War II. The lyrics were the subject of some more fine-tuning in 1969, with changes made to the first line of each verse to pull back from specificity of locations and ship names, but the sentiment remains the same.
In spite of its modern association with all events hosted by the United States Navy, this piece actually started out as full-fledged march composed for the Navy Football team. Zimmerman was a composer of some note who was selected to lead the Navy band at the age of 26 in 1887, a band his father had also played in. As bandmaster, he composed a march for every graduating class of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, and subsequently awarded gold medals by each class for his effort. In November of 1906, "Zimmy" (as the cadets fondly called him) was approached by Midshipman Miles with a request to create a march "with a swing" to it for the football team. The two men reportedly worked out the tune in the Academy Chapel at the organ, and it was debuted as Stand Navy Down the Field
at the Army-Navy
at the end of the month (Navy won!). It also became the official march for the 1907 graduating class. The march we commonly hear today, which was officially adopted by the U.S. Navy in 1926, constitutes only a part of the full piece. The lyrics apply to the second and third iterations of the trio, and the first and second strains of the march are rarely heard. Incidentally, the term "aweigh" comes from the phrase "to weigh anchor", which means to raise or hoist. The current set of lyrics
did not appear until the adoption of the piece in the 1920s, so both sets are represented here for historical perspective.
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