Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  • America the Beautiful

    Article. "America the Beautiful" has been called "an expression of patriotism at its finest." It conveys an attitude of appreciation and gratitude for the nation's extraordinary physical beauty and abundance, without triumphalism. It has also been incorporated into a number of films including The Sandlot and The Pentagon Wars. Its lyricist, Katharine Lee Bates, died March 28, 1929, and is buried in Falmouth, Massachusetts, ...

    • 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.

  • U.S. Air Force Song

    Article. Melodies and songs are often quoted within another piece of music and "Off We Go" is no exception. Frank Zappa's twenty-five-minute opus "Billy the Mountain," a pastiche of American musical genres, incorporates melodic references to "Off We Go" and a number of other tunes such as "Over the Rainbow," "Pomp and Circumstance," and television's the Tonight Show theme.

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • Classic Rag

    John Stark was particularly proud of the rags that his firm published. One of his advertisements read: "Why are the Stark Music Co's Rags called Classic? This is the reason: They are intellectual musical thought grounded in the emotional principle of humanity. They are the musical soul-thought of the human race."

  • 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.

  • May Aufderheide, 1888-1972

    Biography. Biography. Despite a serious grounding in art music, Aufderheide turned her attentions to ragtime. Her first rag, "Dusty," was published in 1908, the same year that she wed Thomas Kaufman. The early years of her marriage inspired a series of other compositions, among them "The Richmond Rag," "The Thriller Rag," and the "Novelty Rag."

  • 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
  • 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!

  • "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 ...

  • Alton A. Adams

    Biography. Biography. Alton Augustus Adams, born in the Virgin Islands in 1889, remains an iconic figure there. When the United States took over the islands in 1917, the new governor appointed Adams chief musician. The band that Adams assembled entered the U.S. Navy as a unit, making Adams the first black bandmaster to serve in the U.S. Navy. He composed a great deal of ...

  • Clarence Cameron White, 1880-1960

    Biography. Biography. White remained active in music throughout his life. Among his positions were conductor of the Victorian Chamber Orchestra in Boston from 1916-20 and the Hampton Institute Choir upon Dett's retirement in 1933. White was director of music at West Virginia State College from 1924-31. He died in 1960, shortly after the completion and performance of his cantata, "Heritage."

  • James Scott, 1885-1938

    Biography. Biography. Scott, Joplin, and Joseph Lamb form the acknowledged triumvirate of ragtime greats. In many ways, Scott's pieces were more virtuosic than those of his two colleagues'--except for some of Lamb's "heavy" rags.

  • History of Ragtime

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

  • " Pretty to Me" by Septimus Winner

    Article. Pretty to Me is lyrical, gentle, soft, and sentimental. Its melody is limited to an octave and consists of four verses. The melody for the second two stanzas of the verse nearly mirrors that of the first two stanzas. Each verse is followed by a homophonic choral refrain on the words "pretty to me."

  • The Army Goes Rolling Along

    Article. Refrain: Then it's Hi! Hi! Hey!The Army's on its way.Count off the cadence loud and strong,For where e'er we go,You will always knowThat The Army Goes Rolling Along.

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • 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.

  • 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
  • Columbia the Gem of the Ocean

    Article. Sheet music from both 1843 and 1846 credited the American title as "Columbia, the Land of the Brave." Yet between these two dates, in 1844, the song was also published under the title it subsequently retained, "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean." Extremely popular during Abraham Lincoln's Civil War administration, the song became a standard tune in the U.S. Marine Corps Band's repertoire.

    • Contributor: Library of Congress
    • Date: 2002
  • 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
  • Herman Wade

    Biography. Biography. Very little is known of Herman Wade. He may be the same person as Herman Avery Wade (and may also have been known as Edwin E. Wilson) who worked for the Aeolian Corporation from 1904-23 as a piano roll arranger. Songs attributed him include "I Want to be Loved Like a Leading Lady" (1908), "Hindoo Honey" (1907), and "I've Got a Pain ...

  • 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
  • " Spelling Bee" by Septimus Winner

    Article. Though not originally considered one of Winner's more popular songs, Spelling Bee achieved immense popularity as Swinging the Alphabet, a novelty song sung by the Three Stooges in their 1938 film, Violent Is the Word for Curly. It was the only full-length song performed by the Three Stooges in their short films, and it marked the only time they mimed to their own ...

  • Horace Weston, 1825-1890

    Biography. Biography. One of Weston's principal champions was Samuel Swain Stewart, a proponent of the banjo, who published pieces by Weston and other banjo players. Among Weston's compositions are: "Horace Weston's Home Sweet Home," "Horace Weston's New Schottische," "Horace Weston's Old-Time Jig," "The Egyptian Fandango," and "Weston's Great Minor Jig."

  • Chris Smith, 1879-1949

    Biography. Biography. Chris Smith "wrote songs that pointed to black folk styles," according to music historian Eileen Southern. One of his biggest hits, "Good Morning, Carrie," was recorded as early as 1901. Both black and white musicals of the first decade of the 20th century used many of his songs as "interpolations,"or extra songs not especially connected to the plot. Some interpolations were "He's ...