Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  • 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 Grant Still, 1895-1978

    Biography. Further Reading

  • Henry F. Gilbert (1868-1928)

    Biography. In 1905 he wrote Americanesque, which was a suite for orchestra based on minstrel show tunes. His first major success was Comedy Overture on Negro Themes (1910) for orchestra. He completed a work based on Creole music in 1908, but it was refused a public performance in Boston because of its hybrid style. Gilbert rewrote the work as a ballet, and The Dance ...

  • Samuel Barber, 1910-1981

    Biography. Barber's hallmark among American composers lies in the fact that he embraced his lyrical and expressive compositional style and shunned nearly all of the experimental trends that penetrated music in the first half of the twentieth century. Unlike many of his contemporaries who dabbled with folk music, twelve tone music, or serial music, the majority of Barber's works adhere to traditional European 19th-century ...

  • Harry Lauder

    Sir Harry Lauder (1870–1950) is best remembered for comic songs and rambling monologues performed in an intimate yet sometimes rousing manner in a thick Scottish brogue. Knighted in 1919, Scottish-born Lauder worked his way up from poverty to become one of the most popular entertainers of his time in Europe and America.

  • Arthur Farwell (1872-1952)

    Biography. Waters, Edward N. "The Wa-Wan Press: An Adventure in Musical Idealism." In A Birthday Offering to C[arl] E[ngel], comp. and ed. Gustave Reese, 214-33. New York: G. Schirmer, 1943.

  • 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 ...

  • 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.

  • Woody Guthrie

    Biography. Resources

  • Nellie Melba

    Dame Nellie Melba (Helen Porter Armstrong, née Mitchell) (1861–1931) was born in Australia and as a child studied piano, violin, and harp. Her 1887 operatic debut in Brussels was an enormous success and she continued to perform in Europe to great acclaim. She debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1893 and remained there until 1910. Her pure voice was described as ...

  • Six Brown Brothers

    Six Brown Brothers were a popular sextet of saxophonists. Originally, the group was composed primarily of male siblings who worked under the leadership of their brother Tom. They recorded for the Emerson, Columbia, and Victor record companies. The group's wide-ranging repertoire included ragtime, marches, operatic arias, and comical-novelty selections such as "Chicken Reel." The sextet's rich and harmonious timbre blended the sounds of the ...

  • 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."

  • 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 ...

  • Stetson Kennedy (1911-2011)

    Biography. A founding member and past president of the Florida Folklore Society, Kennedy is a recipient of the Florida Folk Heritage Award and the Florida Governor's Heartland Award.

    • Contributor: Kennedy, Stetson
  • Harvey Bartlett Gaul (1881-1945)

    Biography. Gaul's choral compositions include both church anthems and secular cantatas. One of his most enduring works for choir is I Hear America Singing (1925), a setting of Walt Whitman poetry published in separate versions for mixed chorus, women's chorus, and men's chorus with soprano soloist. Today Gaul is memorialized through the Harvey Gaul Composition Competition, a biennial contest created by the Friends of ...

  • Michael Daugherty

    Biography. Michael Daugherty (b. 1954) is one of the most popular American composers of his generation. He is known for evocative compositions inspired by pop culture such as the Metropolis Symphony (1988-93) inspired by the Superman comic book, his opera Jackie O (1997) and the infamous Dead Elvis for solo bassoon and chamber ensemble (1993) which features a bassoonist dressed as Elvis Presley. Daugherty's ...

  • George W. Chadwick (1854-1931)

    Biography. Biography. Biography. Chadwick is often dubbed the dean of American composers because of his position as conservatory director, his textbooks, and his teaching. He directly influenced important turn-of-the-century composers such as Horatio Parker, Daniel Gregory Mason, Frederick Converse, and William Grant Still. He received honorary degrees from Yale (A.M., 1897) and Tufts (LL.D., 1905). He was a member of the National Institute of ...

  • John McCormack

    John McCormack (1884–1945) was an Irish American tenor renowned for his renditions of sentimental Irish-themed songs. He also possessed a fine operatic voice and worked steadily on the opera stage during the early part of his career. Reportedly, he was a self-admitted poor actor and for this reason chose to focus his career on the concert stage and recording studio. McCormack's voice has been ...

  • Paul Whiteman

    Paul Whiteman (1890–1967), billed as "The King of Jazz" by a clever press agent, was perhaps the most visible and easily recognized celebrity of the 1920s. The cherubic, mustachioed maestro was certainly the decade's most famous dance orchestra leader, and his Victor records were always big sellers. His first issued record, "Whispering" and "Japanese Sandman," ushered in a new style of dance music, slimmed ...

  • Walter Damrosch, 1862-1950

    Martin, George. The Damrosch Dynasty: America's First Family of Music. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1983.

  • 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."

  • Erich Korngold, 1897-1957

    Biography. Perhaps seeking a respite from his intensely focused work on his large scale Symphonic Serenade for string orchestra (op. 39, 1947-48), Korngold began work on a set of songs which were eventually published as the Fünf Lieder (Five Songs, op. 38), for medium voice and piano. Based on poems from disparate sources (of twentieth century German poet Richard Dehmel; of nineteenth century German ...

  • Billy Murray

    Billy Murray (1877–1954) was perhaps the most prolific recording artist of the acoustic recording era. His distinctive nasal baritonish-tenor voice, which recorded extremely well, and his perfect diction contributed to the popularity of his records. During his career, Murray recorded for nearly every company in existence, most notably for Edison and Victor. Murray's repertoire, while confined to the popular idiom, was wide-ranging. He was ...

  • 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.