Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  • 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 ...

  • Will Accooe (d. 1904)

    Biography. Biography. Accooe also composed for other musicals. Williams and Walker's The Sons of Ham (1900) included some Accooe material. He also wrote a musical in 1901 with Will Marion Cook called The Cannibal King, but this was never staged.

  • Folk Singers, Social Reform, and the Red Scare

    At the Library of Congress in 2007, Pete Seeger performed examples of sing alongs with audience members, folk songs and activist songs. He presented a new peace song, "Don't Say it Can't be Done," inspired by the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentegon, and harking back to the Mongomery, Alabama Civil Rights bus boycott of 1955.

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  • Songs Related to the Abolition of Slavery

    Among the places that slaves could run to and avoid capture were lands belonging to American Indian tribes by treaty. Before the United States acquired Florida, slaves could flee there to both leave the United States and seek allies among the Seminole tribe. In the webcast Tim Tingle and D.J. Battiest-Tomasi: Oklahoma Choctaw Music and Storytelling, available in this presentation, Tim Tingle tells a ...

  • Songs of the Peace Movement of World War I

    When the United States entered the war, many who voted for Wilson on the basis of his non-interventionist stance were profoundly disillusioned, in spite of the campaign to inspire support for the war. Some songs of the period do celebrate victory, but others reflect the emotional consequences of this unpopular swing from peace to war and a sense of the ways that this war ...

  • Noble Sissle, 1889-1975

    Biography. Biography. Sissle also founded the Negro Actors Guild. Known as the unofficial mayor of Harlem, he died in December 1975.

  • Bob Cole, 1868-1911

    Biography. Biography. James Weldon Johnson later referred to Cole as "the single greatest force in the middle period of the development of black theatricals in America." Although he is still not well known today, history bears out much of Johnson's claim. Cole was one of the handful of truly pioneering black composers and performers of his time.

  • William H. Tyers, 1876-1924

    Biography. Biography. One of the first black composers to join ASCAP, Tyers died in 1924.

  • 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 ...

  • Songs of the Zionist Movement in America

    After the war, the British took control of Palestine, allowing Jewish settlements to develop and thrive. Jewish immigrants purchased land on which to settle. Among the needs for these settlers was a common language, as settlers came from various parts of Europe and North America. Hebrew, which at the time was a language used only in religious practice that many Jews did not speak ...

  • 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]

  • Maceo Pinkard, 1897-1962

    Biography. Biography. Composer Maceo Pinkard was born in Bluefield, West Virginia, in 1897. After his "Oh, You Darktown Regimental Band" was published in 1920 by the first black-owned music publishing company, Pace and Handy, Pinkard went on to write music for the shows Bon Bon Buddy, Jr. (1922), Liza (1922), and Broadway Rastus (1925 edition). He also composed several blues songs as well as ...

  • Songs of Social Change

    Select the links from the left menu for short articles on different periods of social change and social causes from United States history illustrated with examples of songs.

  • 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 ...

  • Blues as Protest

    Another example of the use of blues to address social issues are found in African American songs about World War II. Bus Ezell's composition, "Obey the Ration Laws," urges people to comply with war-time rationing, but it also alludes to a difference in compliance and attitudes between poor and wealthy Americans. Buster Brown's "War Song," also performed during World War II, complains of a ...

  • Luckey Roberts, 1887-1968

    Biography. Biography. Roberts recorded two unissued solo piano sides for Columbia in 1916. These were his compositions "Shoo Fly" and "Shy and Sly." Although he accompanied other artists in late-1920s recordings, he did not record again under his name until 1946. Roberts performed as a vaudvevillian singer, dancer, and pianist in the United States and Europe. He also organized and conducted his own ensembles, ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943)

    Biography. Dett was opposed to the style of "swinging the spirituals" that was becoming popular during the 1930s. He held a poll among his students at Bennett College regarding their opinions of the popular style. One of his students, reflecting Dett' s teaching, wrote: "I like the music, but I don't like the way it was sung. . . . I think it lowers ...

  • Benjamin Shook

    Biography. Biography. A musician who was well-versed in almost all musical idioms except the blues, Benjamin Shook was a bandleader in Detroit from the end of the 19th century into the 1930s. According to Blesh and Janis, authors of They All Played Ragtime, the bands of Theodore Finney, Fred S. Stone, and Benjamin Shook "...monopolized the city's entertainment and social world to the almost ...

  • 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.

  • George Walker, 1873-1911

    Biography. Biography. George Walker died on January 6, 1911. Lester Walton, in the New York Age of January 12, 1911, said, "George Walker was a talented artist, a fact which cannot be overlooked . . . Yet, the man was a dominating force in the theatrical world more because of the service he rendered the colored members of the profession, more because of the ...

  • Will Marion Cook (1869-1944)

    Biography. Biography. Biography. Cook also followed his own advice. Thomas Riis, in his study of early black musical theater, singles out Cook's remarkable harmonic skill and compositional sophistication. When the pursuit of his classical career was stymied, Cook brought his exceptional talent to bear on popular music, perhaps paving the way for the marriage of popular spirit and classical complexity which became jazz. Either ...

  • Early Sound Recordings of "Amazing Grace" in the LC Collections

    Article. Article. Rust, Brian. The Victor Master Book, Volume 2 (1925-1936). Stanhope, NJ: W. C. Allen, 1970.

  • Songs of Women's Suffrage

    The text of what would become the Ninteenth Amendment was originally drafted by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and introduced to Congress in 1878, then rejected in 1887. The Constitutional ammendement was proposed again in 1914, in 1915, in 1918, and in February 1919, failing to win addequate votes each time, until it was proposed again in May of 1919 and passed. ...