Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  • Semper Paratus

    Article. The work of the U.S. Coast Guard has always included a strong humanitarian emphasis. Orville and Wilbur Wright, for example, were able to engage members of the Coast Guard to assist in their historic first. Years later Orville Wright told this story:

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • History of Ragtime

    "Real Ragtime: Disc Recordings from its Heyday" (Booklet notes by Richard Martin and David Sager). Archeophone Records, Arch. 1001A.

  • The Dissemination of "Amazing Grace"

    Article. Article. NOTES:1. Hymns were (and still are) known by two titles: one, the first line of their texts and two, the name of the hymn tune to which the text is sung. Hence, one tune serve for a number of texts. [back to text] 2. Amazing Grace (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 114. [back to text] 3. Ibid. 126. [back to text]

  • Over There

    Article. President Wilson described "Over There" as "a genuine inspiration to all American manhood" and Cohan remained unwavering in his patriotic fervor. However, a significant number of artists and performers grew increasingly disillusioned with a war in which 9,000,000 individuals lost their lives (117,000 of whom were Americans). Thus Cohan's work was contrapuntal to the edgier music produced by performers such as James Reese ...

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • Christensen's Ragtime Review

    The photographs and illustrations of the "Czar" were in and of themselves telling statements. In many ads, Christensen is depicted in formal attire, seated at a grand piano. As his hands fly over the keyboard, his right foot is placed behind the stool, bracing his body as he tears through a performance. Even the tails of his tuxedo fly up from the motion of ...

  • Shepard N. Edmonds, 1876-1957

    Biography. Biography. Little is known of Shepard N. Edmonds, except that he published some music. He was part of a vaudeville team with J. Leubrie Hill which performed on the East Coast around 1898.

  • Marines' Hymn

    Article. The first version of the song was copyrighted, published and distributed in 1919 by The Leatherneck - a Marine Corps magazine printed in Quantico, Virginia. On November 21, 1942, the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps approved a slight change in the words of the first verse, to read "In air, on land, and sea" instead of the earlier "In the air, ...

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • J. Rosamond Johnson (John Rosamond), 1873-1954

    Biography. Biography. When World War I broke out, Johnson received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 15th Regiment. After the war, he toured with his own groups, and even sang and played the part of a lawyer in the original production of Porgy and Bess in 1935. J. Rosamond Johnson died in New York City on November 11, 1954.

  • "The Friends We Love" by Septimus Winner

    Article. Winner wrote many such ballads during the civil war years. They were perhaps even more popular than those of his contemporary, Stephen Foster. According to Charles Claghorn, author of The Mocking Bird: The Life and Diary of Its Author, Septimus Winner, President Abraham Lincoln's favorite song was Winner's Listen to the Mockingbird, another simple ballad. The appeal of these popular songs was not ...

  • J. Leubrie Hill (John Leubrie), d. 1916

    Biography. Biography. Florenz Ziegfeld, producer of the Ziegfeld Follies, was impressed enough to buy the rights for a few of the numbers from My Friend from Kentucky including "At the Ball, That's All" to use in his next Follies production. Parts of My Friend from Kentucky also were used in 1914's Darktown Follies, which played in a more conventional Broadway theater; this production was ...

  • Battle hymn of the republic

    Article. But it was when Julia Ward Howe visited Washington, DC in 1861 that the tune properly came to be called "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Howe and her husband, both of whom were active abolitionists, experienced first-hand a skirmish between Confederate and Union troops in nearby Virginia, and heard the troops go into battle singing "John Brown's Body." That evening, November 18, ...

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again

    Article. The song also gave rise to many a parody. The best known was the Confederate parody "For Bales." Union soldiers sang about Generals such as Burnside, McClellan and Mead in a parody titled "Boys of the Potomac"and northerners disgruntled by taxes, conscription and inflation sang "Johnny, Fill up the Bowl." During the Spanish American War in 1898, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" reached ...

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • Fanfare for the Common Man

    Article. In March 1943, income taxes were a major issue for the common man. The United States had been at war about fifteen months and government spending soared. The previous year, as other taxes rose, only one in seven taxpayers had managed to save enough from their wages to pay the federal government. Congress had just recently required employers to withhold an employee's estimated ...

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • Sit Down, Shut Up, and Listen to Ragtime: Bob Milne and the Occupational Folklore of the Traveling Piano Player

    They sat down and shut up. The Potentate almost fell over backward in his chair laughing, and I just went back up on the stage and continued. But to me, that's just business as normal!

  • Band Stocks

    Article. Article. African-American Band Music and Recordings, 1883-1923, provides instrumental parts for a representative sampling of the enormous body of published stock arrangements. The 1920s marked the beginning of the great era of popular song and of stock arrangement publishing. However, works published in 1923 and beyond remain under copyright protection. The public domain publications included here provide a valuable foundation for appreciating the ...

  • James Reese Europe, 1881-1919

    Biography. Biography. The impact of James Reese Europe on American music cannot be overestimated. Perhaps even more than Will Marion Cook, he shaped not only the music of his own time, but of future generations as well. His organizational accomplishments, far exceeding Cook's, prefigured the black-owned, black-run musical organizations that have existed since his time and to this day.

  • Joe Jordan

    Biography. Biography. Around 1905, he began a long career as a conductor and composer, working with James Reese Europe on Ernest Hogan's Memphis Students performance troupe. In 1906 he became music director of Chicago's Pekin Theater Orchestra. Jordan also worked in Chicago as a composer and conductor for several musicals. He contributed songs such as "Lovey Joe" to Ziegfeld's 1910 Follies. In 1939 Jordan ...

  • Anchors Aweigh

    Article. Charles Zimmermann died just before the U.S. entered WWI but his counterpart, John Philip Sousa, enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve and was paid one dollar per month to organize the young musicians recruited into the service. He molded the Great Lakes Navy Band into an accomplished musical organization and became the first Navy musician to hold the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Midshipman ...

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • Victory at Sea

    Article. "Victory at Sea" received immediate acclaim. It earned a Peabody, a special Emmy and numerous other awards. Its production team, led by Henry Salomon, created an enduring art form, the compilation documentary. It also earned Richard Rodgers the U.S. Navy's Distinguished Service Award in 1953.

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • Billy Johnson, 1858-1916

    Biography. Biography. After a period in Chicago, where Johnson got married, dabbled in politics, wrote some songs, and appeared in the last Pekin Stock Company production, he returned to the New York stage around 1911. The last show he performed in was Twenty Miles from Home in 1914. Billy Johnson died in 1916 after a fall.

  • The Creation of "Amazing Grace"

    Article. Article. NOTES:1. Information for this essay was drawn in great part from Steve Turner's book "Amazing Grace: The Story of America's Most Beloved Song" (New York: HarperCollins, 2002). We are grateful to the author for allowing us to quote his book liberally. [back to text]2. As Turner notes, the Quakers and Anabaptists were the only Christians to speak out against slavery (p. 50). ...

  • This Land is Your Land

    Article. Nobody living can ever stop me As I go walking my Freedom Highway Nobody living can make me turn back This land was made for you and me.

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • John Larkins

    Biography. Biography. John Larkins was a minor figure in black music in the early part of the 20th century. He ran "Jolly" John Larkin's Company and employed James Reese Europe as its musical director from 1906-07. In 1910 he produced and starred in A Trip to Africa. His other credits include Royal Sam (1911) and Deep Central (1932).

  • God Bless America

    Article. Irving Berlin lived a long life, one hundred and one years, and built a catalog of over 1,000 songs. His first published song was "Marie from Sunny Italy" (1907) and his first major hit was "Alexander's Ragtime Band" (1911). He also wrote for Broadway and the movies. Among his most recognized songs are "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody," "Mandy," "White Christmas," ...

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002