America Sings of War: American Sheet Music from World War I

TitleAmerica Sings of War: American Sheet Music from World War I
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsPaas, John Roger
Number of Pages370
CityWiesbaden, Germany

The outbreak of hostilities in Europe in August 1914 surprised Americans, who viewed the war from afar with mixed feelings: disbelief that the cultured nations did not find a peaceful settlement, and indifference, for this war had little to do with American interests. Whereas the sympathies of the intellectual and political leaders in America lay with the Allies, the general public had no desire to become embroiled in the European conflict. The official and unofficial stance in 1914 was neutrality, but when the American Congress declared war on Germany in 1917, an aggressive campaign of propaganda was launched to mobilize public opinion in favor of American engagement in the war. Although not a part of the official campaign, thousands of pieces of sheet music produced throughout America supported these efforts. Over 30,000 war songs were composed and copyrighted, with the prime motivation being commercial success. With eye-catching covers, clever titles, and engaging lyrics, these songs both reflected and helped to shape public opinion. Sung in parlors and halls, performed on vaudeville stages, and recorded for phonographs, they illuminate the change in Americans' reaction to the war from initial neutrality, to preparedness, to patriotic fervor. With printings sometimes surpassing one million copies, sheet music reached all segments of the population. The songs selected for this anthology including lyrics are arranged by year of publication and document thereby the evolution of the American public's attitude toward U.S. involvement in the war. The collection is thus an accessible and valuable resource for understanding American history and society during World War I. It contains texts of 441 songs and color reproductions of each cover, and includes indexes of titles, songwriters, composers, publishers and performers.

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