The Story Behind the Song: 150 Songs that Chronicle the 20th Century

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Rosamond Johnson wrote the music because he wished to transform the poem into a song for children. Rosamond studied music under the tutelage of his mother and later attended the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. His love of children and the African American cultures led him to become a trustee of the Music School Settlement in Harlem, New York, where he also served as music director. James Weldon Johnson was a Renaissance man. He was a newspaper journalist and editor for the Daily American, the first daily newspaper for African Americans.

He authored several books including two about Negro spirituals. He was active in the NAACP throughout his adult life and served as secretary of the organization for fourteen years. These lyrics were intended to remind African American children in the beginning of the twentieth century that their ancestors had suffered worse consequences of racial discrimination than they would ever know.

This song also reminds listeners that African Americans now stand in a brighter light because of those who fought for civil rights. Arrangements of this song for voice and piano are readily available in collections of inspirational songs. Perhaps she dreamed of the gentility of the faded Victorian period and tried to re-create it through her poetry, music, and painting.

Carrie Jacobs was born in Janesville, Wisconsin, on August 11, Her father died while she was quite young, leaving Carrie and her mother without any savings on which to live. She and her mother, therefore, moved back to Janesville to live with her grandfather, a hotel operator.

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Her grandfather and mother encouraged her to pursue her love of music. Carrie Jacobs married Frank J. Smith when she was eighteen, but it was not a happy union. Despite social pressure against divorce at the time, she did divorce Smith. Two years later, she married Frank Lewis Bond, a physician.

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Bond encouraged her to write songs and provided her with the emotional support and loving marriage 8 The Story Behind the Song she had hoped for. Regrettably, he fell on the ice and died only a few years after they were married. Because Carrie and her husband had not invested wisely, she was left to care for their son with little savings, a sad reprise to the hardship her mother experienced. Carrie then moved to Chicago and earned a living managing a rooming house, a vocation she had learned from her grandfather. Despite her financial difficulties, she continued to write songs in hopes of locating a publisher who would exploit her talent.

Although Carrie Jacobs-Bond did not have a professional singing voice, she sang publicly in order to promote her songs. Davis also gave Bond the financial backing she needed to publish her first collection of songs, Seven Songs as Unpretentious as the Wild Rose in This, her first collection, sold more than 1 million copies. Carrie Bond experienced two worlds during her lifetime. The world of reality, in which two men whom she loved, her father and her husband, gave her very little material comfort.

Her world of songs, filled with romance and happy endings, replaced the passion that was missing from her real world. This form of family entertainment was quite popular with members of the middle and upper class who could afford to own a piano. Sentimental love songs like this one were perfectly suited for these family sings.

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Songwriters often use lyrics to describe the current events and social attitudes of a particular period or people. An examination of America's popular songs--and the stories behind their creation--can help us better understand our history and. The Story Behind the Song: Songs that Chronicle the 20th Century: Richard D. Barnet, Bruce Nemerov, Mayo R. Taylor: Books.

This song is available in many different song collections, such as for weddings and romantic love songs. This song has been recorded by an extremely diverse range of recording artists and styles such as the Lawrence Welk Orchestra, Louis Prima, the Ink Spots, and a dixieland jazz band called the Firehouse Five Plus Two.

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The Decade of Opportunity 9 4. In , the United States was still struggling with a relatively new concept: treating all citizens, including African Americans, fairly and courteously. Although the requisite number of states ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, thereby making it illegal to own slaves, social acceptance of African Americans had not spread very far by the turn of the century. Two stylized characters from the minstrel format were Jim Crow, a character acted to resemble an ignorant country person, and Zip Coon, an urban character who might be compared to a modern-day con artist.

Both Jim Crow and Zip Coon were, of course, fictionalized black characters performed by white actors. Some minstrel troupes made up of African American performers also adopted the same format and characters of their white actor counterparts. However, white actors typically did not act in the same shows as black actors during the heyday of minstrel shows. Not all recordings during the first decade of the century were of noteworthy musical merit.

Descriptions of many recordings on the Edison label included comic, vaudeville, and coon songs. One can conclude, therefore, that there was a good market for humorous recordings in the first decade of the twentieth century. Like most songwriters hoping to earn publishing income from their songs, Hughie Cannon probably thought little about the denigrating manner in which coon songs referred to African Americans and focused instead on whatever genres were selling in the marketplace.

The more universal theme and less condescending attitude toward the characters in the song seemed to indicate a step toward acceptance of African American culture by mainstream white society. This song might have signaled the decline of the coon-song genre and the beginning of songs that made more benign references to minorities in American culture.

Thirty years later, the song was recorded by numerous dixieland, pop, and big band jazz artists including Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin, Earl Fatha Hines, and Pearl Bailey. A large number of recordings of this song are available, and sheet music arrangements for many instrument and voice combinations continue to be distributed.

A recent search of the Internet indicated that forty-five hundred Web sites contained lyrics to this song. Music critics of the s and early s tended to view western European fine art concert music as the model for American composers of instrumental music to emulate. The Eurocentrism of music critics, combined with a general condescension toward African American The Decade of Opportunity 11 composers in America, caused Joplin to struggle for acceptance during his lifetime.

He was born into a musical family and was classically trained in his childhood. He later studied piano with pianist Louis Chauvin.

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View Product. Established seller since A discussion of 15 influential songs from each decade provides the songs' histories, what inspired the writers to create them, and why they have resonated over time. If possible, download the file in its original format. The original musical full of whimsical songs was a fairly lighthearted story about shipwrecked passengers. Full description.

After he matured as a musician, he became an orchestra conductor and entertainer, touring with vaudeville shows. Most music historians credit Joplin for developing the ragtime style and writing some of its finest extant examples. He was forced to finance the one and only performance of his opera Tremonisha himself in , but was unsuccessful at finding backers to produce it.

Two years later, during the U. This song has also been arranged for myriad instrumental combinations such as orchestra, concert band, and dixieland band. He emigrated to the United States in to become the conductor of the 22nd Army Regimental Band and became a citizen in His knowledge of and love for Europeanstyle operettas, combined with his background in military marches, helped form his unique music compositional style.

Fred R. To capitalize on its popularity, the producers commissioned Glen MacDonough and Victor Herbert to create a sequel. The result was Babes in Toyland, a very entertaining and easily accessible operetta that also had a storm, a difficult and frightening journey through the forest, and the eventual arrival at a mythical city just as in The Wizard of Oz. The one big difference between these two works was the superior quality of music in Babes in Toyland.

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The show ran times and was presented on Broadway again in , , and The most recent incarnation of this operetta was a direct-tovideo production released by MGM in It was not unusual for him to write the dialogue as well as the songs for his musicals. He also produced, directed, and appeared in his Broadway extravaganzas. Cohan grew up in a vaudeville family and did not receive much formal education.

His nomadic life provided him, instead, with an environment in which he learned the craft of writing skits and songs, as well as performing them, for the world of entertainment. As he matured as a writer and producer, he developed a uniquely American approach to musical theater. Prior to the twentieth century, American productions created for musical theater tended to emulate European operettas, such as those by Gilbert and Sullivan.

Cohan was initially considered a maverick, because his characters were unapologetically American and they spoke in everyday vernacular complete with street slang and regional dialects. To say that this song was a hit would be an understatement: it continues to be performed and recorded in the twenty-first century. This up-tempo song with a marchlike rhythm is most often played during patriotic celebrations or productions. It can easily be called an American patriotic anthem. Ironically, the musical itself met with only limited success even though two songs from it have become icons of American popular music.

Cohan starring James Cagney, in This song is also included in George M! Gerrard and Henry W.

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The song was immediately popular when, in , it was recorded by the Hayden Quartet Victor , the most popular close-harmony barbershop quartet in the early s. Harrison Edison They then decided to write it for Adelina Patti, an Italian American star of the Metropolitan Opera whom both songwriters admired greatly. But they found that Adelina was too difficult to rhyme as well. Thus, they changed it to Adeline in order to create a better flow for the rhyming scheme.

In addition, her reputation as the premier female opera star in the United States endured for decades. Honey Fitz was elected mayor of Boston due in part to him cleverly associating his campaign to a romantic song that many people sang and even more listened to. He became a two-term mayor and began a political legacy that was continued by his grandchildren Joseph Jr.

The Decade of Opportunity 15 The term barbershop quartet evolved from groups of male singers who allegedly sang their favorite songs, with improvised harmony parts, while waiting to get shaves or haircuts at their local barbershop. The a cappella style of singing was likely a legacy of early Calvinist church psalm singing.

As the four-part harmony vocal style evolved, homogeneous ensembles all male or all female became associated with the genre. In , the artist Norman Rockwell painted a scene that was his imagined idea of a barbershop quartet singing in a barbershop. Like many of his nostalgic Americana paintings, it appeared as a cover illustration for the Saturday Evening Post. Therefore, in , an analogous organization for women was created.

It is also readily available in arrangements for piano and solo voice, guitar and voice, and instrumental ensembles. It should be noted that this song is sometimes included in collections of music from the Gay Nineties era, but this is historically inaccurate. Harris Music Publishing Company Topical songs of this decade served as journalism as well as entertainment. Their invention gave the world something other inventors had only dreamed of: the ability to travel great distances in short periods of time.

It also gave the citizens of the United States bragging rights for years to come.

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Shields and Evans, like other songwriters, wrote music they hoped would be included in vaudeville sketches and Broadway shows. It could be considered both a romantic song and a topical song. That same year, J.