The Songs That Fought the War

Popular Music and the Home Front, 1939-1945
Jones, John Bush (Book - 2006)
The Songs That Fought the War

Item Details

University Press of New England
A lively social history of popular wartime songs and how they helped America's home front morale.
Poet Rod McKuen once observed that "1939-1945 was a terrible time for the world, but it was a glorious time for songs and fighter pilots." Anyone who was alive during World War II remembers with fondness the music of the period. Songs such as "I'll Be Seeing You," "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "It's Been A Long, Long Time," and "Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition" became standards that are still around today.

But what's most amazing about the popular songs of the war years is just how many there were. World War II was one of the most fertile periods of American popular songwriting; it was also the heyday of such "big bands" as those of Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, and Harry James, and of vocalists such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, Kitty Kallen, and, of course, the Andrews Sisters. This outpouring of music included romantic ballads, rhythm numbers, dance tunes, and novelty songs, and the war itself occasioned the writing, publishing, recording, and performance of thousands of war-inspired songs. Professionals wrote virtually all of the wartime songs we still sing today, but thousands of other numbers were written by inspired (or not-so-inspired) amateurs: men, women, and even children eager to express their patriotism through lyric and melody.

Although a central part of home front popular culture during World War II, these war-related and war-inspired songs had never been systematically analyzed or interpreted. In The Songs That Fought The War, John Bush Jones examines hundreds of these tunes in the context of the times. He begins with a look at the contemporary music industry and the astonishing array of songwriters (including amateurs) prior to Pearl Harbor and during the war. Then he turns to songs written and popularized before Pearl Harbor, including tunes that touted isolationism and patriotism in the late 1930s, songs written by Americans about the European allies, and songs from England that became popular in the United States. Post-Pearl Harbor tunes included songs about the draft, enlistment, army life, national pride, and a few about wartime personalities such as FDR and MacArthur. Humorous songs about shortages, rationing, and Victory Gardens and sentimental ballads about boys abroad missing girls back home (and vice versa) expressed home front anxieties and efforts, not least of which was the German hit among both the Allies and the Axis, "Lili Marlene."

Authors: Jones, John Bush
Statement of Responsibility: John Bush Jones
Title: The songs that fought the war
popular music and the home front, 1939-1945
Publisher: Waltham, Mass. : Braindeis University Press ; Lebanon, NH : University Press of New England, c2006
Characteristics: xiv, 338 p. ; 24 cm.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. [295]-299) and indexes
Contents: "When this crazy world is sane again" : the setting for the songs
"I hear America singing" : but who wrote all those songs?
"Over here" : prewar isolationism, patriotism, and preparedness
"Chin up! cheerio! carry on!" : the allies and us
"G.I. jive" : the draft, enlistment, and army life
"Johnny, get your gun again" : from national pride to Axis-bashing
"There's an F.D.R. in freedom" : the war's faces and places
"In the army, in the navy, in the marines" : saluting the services
"Don't forget there's a war going on" : pitching in and coping on the home front
"Arm in arm" : wartime romance
"A boy in khaki, a girl in lace" : the servicemen away, their girls back home
"It's been a long, long time" : victory, homecomings, and the world after the war
Subject Headings: Popular music United States 1941-1950 History and criticism Popular music United States 1931-1940 History and criticism World War, 1939-1945 Music and the war
Topical Term: Popular music
Popular music
World War, 1939-1945
LCCN: 2006016247
ISBN: 1584654430
Research Call Number: JME 06-1072
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Jones, John Bush
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