• Musical Styles -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    In its history, America's songs have been performed in many musical styles. Learn more about how these musical styles developed and listen to examples.

  • Traditional and Ethnic -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    Traditional songs, often called "folk songs," are learned informally, within the context of family, tribe, community, or another close-knit group. Many traditional songs have been sung within the same family or ethnic and regional communities for generations, and as in the case of American traditional songs, can sometimes be traced back to such places of origin as Great Britain, Europe, or Africa and other ...

  • Songs of Unionization, Labor Strikes, and Child Labor

    This article is about songs of unionization, labor strikes, and child labor. Songs of children who had to work instead of going to school tell a particularly poignant story about migrant labor. A song beginning "Yo cuando era niño -- mi padre querido," sung by Jose Suarez, was composed by the singer about his childhood picking cotton with his father in Texas. "The Cotton ...

  • Songs of Politics and Political Campaigns -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    Elections provide opportunities for advocates of policies for social change and those favoring social stability to advocate their particular cause. Campaign songs and songs of political parties can help to spread particular points of view and build solidarity around candidates and platforms. Playlist for Politics and Political Campaigns Five recordings from Library of Congress collections explore patriotism and other political issues. National airs of ...

  • Rhythm and Blues -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    The term "rhythm and blues," often called "R&B," originated in the 1940s when it replaced "race music" as a general marketing term for all African American music, though it usually referred only to secular, not religious music. The term first appeared in commercial recording in 1948, when RCA Victor records began using "blues and rhythm" music as a descriptor for African American secular songs. ...

  • Mapping the Songs of the Civil War -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    Select the highlighted states on this map to view a selection of sheet music pertaining to people, places, or events associated with that state during the Civil War. This can include songs about military figures, battles and campaigns, regiments, and other state-related events or sentiments.

  • Ragtime -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    Ragtime, a uniquely American, syncopated musical phenomenon, has been a strong presence in musical composition, entertainment, and scholarship for over a century. It emerged in its published form during the mid-1890s and quickly spread across the continent via published compositions. By the early 1900s ragtime flooded the music publishing industry. The popularity and demand for ragtime also boosted sale of pianos and greatly swelled ...

  • Songs of Social Change -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    Americans from the colonial period to the present day have often practiced their right to freedom of speech through song. American songs have called attention to social causes, both criticized and advocated governmental social policies, and provided a means of personal complaint on social issues. Songs are easily carried, demand attention, convey emotion, and can be performed in many contexts, with or without instrumentation, ...

  • Songs of Sports and Leisure -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    American popular song emerged in the same era that American leisure culture began to develop, and sports such as baseball and football began to take on their present, distinctly American forms. As transportation improved, professional entertainers and traveling shows and circuses became regular visitors throughout the country. Transportation itself also became a form of recreation. Playlist for Sports and Leisure Five recordings from Library ...

  • Bluegrass -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    Bluegrass music is a tradition-based modern style of string band music. Typically a bluegrass band consists of four to seven performers who sing while accompanying themselves on acoustic string instruments such as the guitar, double bass, fiddle, five-string banjo, mandolin, steel guitar, and Dobro. Bluegrass combines elements of old-time mountain music, square dance fiddling, blues, gospel, jazz, and popular music. Like jazz, bluegrass allows ...

  • Articles About Songs -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    Original essays and articles are available on this site to help provide historical context and a deeper view for those who wish to learn more about particular topics. The Library's curators have written articles on historical topics and song, musical styles, individual songs, and songs of various ethnic groups in America.

    • Date: 1759
  • Rock -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    The term "Rock and Roll" was applied to several related forms of music broadly popular with youth starting in the mid-1950s. Some styles were already well established with certain audiences, or used musical devices that had been around for some time, but in the mid-1950s, they achieved national popularity, and soon became the driving forces in much of popular music. Playlist Recordings from Library ...

  • 1950 to Present -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    Cultural and historical events from 1950 to present related to American song.

    • Date: 1950
  • Songs of Work and Industry -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    During the 400 years of the settlement, territorial expansion, migration, industrialization and urbanization of what would come to be known as the United States, the nature of making a living and the technological and economic factors on which it rested changed profoundly. In colonial North America the economy was overwhelmingly agricultural with farmers producing much of what they needed for themselves and their communities. ...

  • War and Conflict -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    War has played no small part in the history of American song. Some of the nation's oldest folk and pop songs celebrate important victories, the experiences of soldiers and sailors, or the loss of loved ones. Playlist for War and Conflict Five recordings from Library of Congress collections describe the business of conflict in a human way. The Waltz must change to a march, ...

  • Art Song -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear; ... Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs. -- Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855) Playlist Five recordings from Library of Congress collections My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free The Francis Hopkinson composotion as performed on the Favorites from the Song of America Tour with Thomas Hampson, baritone, and Wolfram Rieger, piano. Recorded ...

  • 1900 to 1949 -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    Cultural and historical events from 1900 to 1949 related to American song.

    • Date: 1900
  • Parlor and Concert Stage -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    Music performance in the United States takes place both at home and on the concert stage. Music written for each of these venues has been of equal importance to the development of American music. The performance of secular music in the United States developed, just as it had many centuries earlier in Europe, along two parallel paths. First, musical gatherings in the private homes ...

  • Minstrel Songs -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    Blackface minstrelsy, which derived its name from the white performers who blackened their faces with burnt cork, was a form of entertainment that reached its peak in the mid-nineteenth century. Using caricatures of African Americans in song, dance, tall tales, and stand-up comedy, minstrelsy was immensely popular with white audiences. These caricatures usually featured the uncultured, parochial, happy-go-lucky southern plantation slave (Jim Crow) in ...

  • Timeline -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    Explore the relationship between cultural and historical events to American song on this timeline.

    • Date: 1759
  • Biographies -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    Short biographies are available for some of the many composers, lyricists, performers, conductors, field collectors, and folklorists who have played a part in the history of American songs.

    • Date: 1759
  • Mapping the Songs of America -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    Select any state on this map to find items pertaining to it. These may include songs about a state, songs written or recorded in a state, or songs composed by an artist associated with that state. Results can include sheet music, recordings, videos, and more.

  • 1759 to 1799 -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    Cultural and historical events from 1759 to 1799 related to American song.

    • Date: 1759
  • Interactive Maps -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    See the connection between America's geography and song through interactive maps that offer songs from the states and about the states.

    • Date: 1581
  • Historical Topics -- The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

    The history of America is reflected through its songs. Read more about how immigration and migration; work and industry; social change; war and conflict; politics and political campaigns; and sports and leisure in the United States have been portrayed in song. Listen to examples for all.

    • Date: 1581