Thursday, February 26, 2015

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B

Title: Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B
Writers: Don Raye & Hughie Prince
Performed by: The Andrew Sisters (Movie: Buck Privates)
Original Song:

The Andrew Sisters
Song was performed in the movie, Buck Privates

Presenter: Sophie Ruder

Boogie Woogie Bugle boy was written by Don Raye and Hughie Prince, in early 1941, about a year before the United States became involved in World War 2. This song was originally performed by the Andrews Sisters in a film called “Buck Privates”. There is a very bluesy rhythm and vibe. It became popular in this movie because it was a song that made people feel good. The rhythm of the music made you want to get up and dance, and that’s exactly what people did. The harmonies sung by the three sisters were mesmerizing. The lyrics were about a famous street musician who was drafted into the army during the peacetime draft.  The army gave him the job of blowing the wake up call, but the musician felt sad about his job. The army decided to recruit various musicians to make a sort of “band” to play the wake up call with him. The lyrics say, “He can’t blow a note if the bass and guitar isn’t with him” which shows how much his music really means to him. This song was intended to make people feel good, because of the way it flows. It’s a very upbeat song and in the movie scene where the sisters are singing it, everyone is up and dancing, and that’s the way the song was made to make people feel. There have been many covers of the song in today’s culture; Katy Perry, Keri Hilson and Jennifer Nettles covered the song in 2010.


Contextualizer: Madeleine Ratter

The song Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy did stick to the trends of the 1940s. Jazz and swing music were all popular genres of the time and the song fits this type of music with its upbeat sound and use brass instruments. Another trend of the time was patriotic music. For years, songs about the United States were popular across the country and ones that got peoples attention. During WW1, a song called “Over There”, written by George M. Cohan, was the song that became ionic during the time of the war. This song was a form of propaganda and encouraged young men to join the war. People wanted another song that represented the war once WW2 started and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy served a similar function as “Over There”. The message of the song was that the US army was welcoming to all people and anyone who joined could serve a purpose and help out with the war. This song showed musicians that even they could join the army and help by doing the things that they knew how to do. This too was a form of propaganda that boosted the moral of the American people and helped support the war effort. This song tells us that people at the time liked US popular culture that was patriotic and made them happy. Even though war is not a happy topic, the upbeat music and the joyful effect that the song had on people was something that was appealing. 


Connector: Moulika Baireddy 

As mentioned before, the “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” was a song produced and popularized in 1941, the year before the United States officially entered World War II. This was around the time when US initiated a peacetime draft to expand the armed forces. The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 was officially established in September 1940 by Franklin D. Roosevelt. This act subjected men, aged 21 to 36, to be selected for military service regardless of their profession or experience. This relates to the song seeing that it was about a famous street musician who was drafted to be in the war. This song presents the war in a positive light, in almost a pro-war attitude. It shows that men, regardless of their skill set, could be useful in the war effort. This song even had a recent cover, with Katy Perry, Keri Hilson, and Jennifer Nettles on VH1 Divas in order to salute the troops. My question for the class related to the cover song: “This new cover song, still had the same jazz music and the same lyrics as the original. Do you think this song has the same effect on the audience now as it did then? Why or why not?” Some key points that the class brought up was that the lyrics, though not applicable to the present time (war is not dominating everyone’s life right now), the song itself is still timeless and influential, just like other songs that we talked about. My answer was pretty similar: “Though the lyrics might not directly correlate to the situation of present times, the song with its upbeat lyrics and patriotic theme, still initiate a feeling of pride and loyalty to the audience. Just like God Bless America and Yankee Doodle, this is another patriotic tune.”

Youtube link for cover song:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - God Bless America

Presenter (Ann Fahey):            
Irving Berlin wrote “God Bless America” in 1918, while he was serving in the army at Camp Upton in Yaphank N.Y. Although he finished the song in 1918, the song did not become popular until 1938. The reason for this is the song was originally written for a show called “Yip Yip Yaphank,” but Berlin thought the lyrics for “God Bless America” did not fit the theatricality of the performance. With the rise of Adolf Hitler to power in Europe in the late 1930s and impending war, Berlin decided to revisit his score for “God Bless America,” intending to rewrite it as a peace song. On November 11, 1938, Kate Smith, also known as the “First Lady of Radio,” sang Berlin’s latest work on her Armistice Day radio broadcast. After Smith’s performance, the song became wildly popular and was even hailed as the new National Anthem. “God Bless America” was then sung on national television, appeared in musicals, and even became the good luck charm for the Philadelphia Flyers. God Bless America remains popular today with people such as Celine Dion, Daniel Rodriguez, Whitney Houston, and LeAnn Rimes covering it, earning the song a spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Berlin’s hymn like tune proves to be extremely patriotic through its lyrics, making its listeners proud to be part of the “land that I love.”

Contextualizer (Samantha Jankowitz):
The revision of “God Bless America” did thoroughly fit the trend of the decade. With the war approaching, Irving Berlin attempted to create a peace song, that could harmonize all of America. While the actual rhythm of the song was standard for a classical piece of the time, the lyrics of the song were innovative. Berlin had aspirations to create a song to dramatize harmony within America. This could be seen in the sports games of the 1940’s. Many teams found this song to be a good luck charm. One of the teams in particular was the Philadelphia Flyers, who created the saying “Its not over until the fat lady sings.” There were many sources of controversy around the song and the composer himself. The fact that Berlin was a Jewish immigrant made many question if he had the right to evoke God or even call America his home. Further the song “This Land is Your Land,” was created in rebuttal to the song as people began to get tired of hearing Kate Smith’s voice on the radio. The song tells a lot of what was going on in America at the time, such as the increased interest in the Boys and Girls Scouts of America, and even the fact that media could relay a message. Considering both Democrats and Republicans of the time adopted the song as a patriotic ode I personally believe it is safe to say that Berlin succeeded in his attempts to create harmony amongst the US population

Connector (Jen Rencis):
In both the 1930s and in contemporary times, “God Bless America” has symbolized the strong pride and patriotism that has existed in the United States.  The song’s introduction by Kate Smith on Armistice Day in 1938 highlights the rising tensions in America over the awaited outbreak of World War II. The opening lyrics “While the storm clouds gather far across the sea” even reference the war that was brewing over in Europe. “God Bless America” was truly a cherished song in America, and in 1955, Irving Berlin received the Gold Medal from President Eisenhower in recognition for his services to the country in writing “God Bless America” and other patriotic songs for the United States. In 1982, Kate Smith was also awarded, when she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan for her rendition of the American classic. After September 11, 2001, “God Bless America” made a momentous reappearance when Celine Dion sang the song on the television special America: A Tribute to Heroes, launching the song onto the Top 40 at the time. Dion’s performance signaled a renewed sense of patriotism in America during this time of hardship. After 9/11, “God Bless America” replaced “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch of baseball games. The song’s reverent performance during this part of the game starkly contrasts the lighthearted tone of the previous occupant of the seventh inning stretch. America’s profound respect for this anthem was displayed in 2009, when a man was kicked out of Yankee’s Stadium when he tried to get up to use the bathroom during the singing of “God Bless America”. Both during World War II and the war in the Middle East, “God Bless America” has inspired hope and pride in America across the decades.

Discussion Question:
Why do you think “God Bless America” has been so successful at instilling pride, hope, and patriotism within the United States, both in the 1930s and after 9/11 in 2001?

Discussion Summary:
In response to the discussion question that was posed to the class, another question to considered emerged: why was “God Bless America” acknowledged as the new national anthem over the existing national anthem—“The Star Spangled Banner”? After some reflection, it was suggested that the reason for “God Bless America” ’s popularity may be due to the common tendency of ‘out with the old, and in with the new’. Another possible reason for America’s reverence of this song may be due to the relative ease with which it can be sung, in comparison to the extreme high and low notes that are required from “The Star Spangled Banner”. Unlike the broad octave range and complex lyrics that make the national anthem a challenge for even professional singers to perform, “God Bless America” consists of a mid-level range of notes, making the song more manageable for the average singer. The lyrics of Berlin’s composition are easily relatable and understandable for the average American. They allude to the relatively recent and extremely memorable World War II, rather than explicitly mentioning it, which reduces the need for listeners to have complete background knowledge of the event, in order to appreciate the song. “The Star Spangled Banner”, on the other hand, is a more dated piece of music (it was written in 1814), and it celebrates an American victory over the British during the War of 1812. Unlike World War II, the War of 1812 is a somewhat forgotten war for most Americans, and “The Star Spangled Banner” ‘s graphic lyrical depictions cause listeners to get caught up in the details of the lyrics, instead of being able to focus and fully enjoy the song.

It was also mentioned that America’s preference towards “God Bless America” over the country’s own national anthem could be attributed to the song’s central themes of peace and patriotism. While the anthem does take place in the midst of World War II’s outbreak, Irving Berlin was careful in avoiding any mention of war in his song. During its rewrite, Berlin even removed the line “Make her victorious on land and foam” because the word ‘victorious’ hinted at conflict. On the contrary, “The Star Spangled Banner” has the potential to generate discomfort among listeners with its inclusion of multiple explicit and violent scenes: “the bombs bursting in air”; “the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion”; “Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution”; “gloom of the grave”. So while, as someone pointed out, peace and nationalism tend to be conflicting ideas, “God Bless America” leverages both to create a passionate and pride-instilling anthem to the United States.


Miller, Chuck. "The History of "God Bless America"." Goldmine Nov 02 2001:
72. ProQuest. Web. 13 Feb. 2015.

Hausmann, John. "Book Reviews: "God Bless America: The Surprising
History of an Iconic Song"." Notes - Quarterly Journal of the Music
Library Association 71.1 (2014): 97-100. ProQuest. Web. 13 Feb. 2015.


Monday, February 16, 2015

The Charleston-- Puttin' on the Ritz

Song: Puttin' on the Ritz
Artist: Fred Astaire
Date: 1927 (written), 1930 (sung)

Victoria's summary:

This song was written in the 1920's, so even though it was not performed until the 1930's, it still showcased themes and styles from the "Roaring Twenties". It was very well liked because it was a fast paced song, which was extremely popular at the time. It has a "ragtime" undertones, which continued to increase in popularity in the 20’s. It is also very jazzy, which is the type of music which was most popular during this era. Those who did not have as much money (working class) tended to hear this type of music in “speakeasies” or in movies. It was mot definitely intended for people to dance to. In the video for the song, Fred Astaire can be seen tap dancing to the beat. However, the Charleston was a very popular dance during this time as well. The overall intention of the song was to get people up and moving. Whether young or old, rich or poor, man or woman; this was a song that got your feet tapping to the beat.


Haille's summary:

For my role as contextualizer in our presentation, I first discussed how “Puttin’ on the Ritz” by Fred Astaire related to the atmosphere of the 1920’s in many ways.  I spoke about how the song became popular around the same time that dances such as The Charleston were becoming popular, because the song has a good, upbeat rhythm and was easy to dance too.  I also talked about how the song relates to all the flashy clothing and underground drinking parties were occurring, because the song lyrics look at these ideas.  The lines that talk about wearing million dollar suits to look like Gary Cooper, who was a famous actor at the time, directly correlates to the parties and flashy clothing.  The next thing I talked about during my part of the presentation was how the lyrics tended to the social class gap that was happening in the 1920’s, which the rich not really caring about the poor and staying in fancy hotels such as the Ritz Carlton.  Some of the lyrics that go along with this idea is when he sings about “mixing with the Rockefellers” and walking with “sticks and umbrellas”.


Jordan's summary:

Throughout the 1920s, one thing that became very popular was dance especially with the younger generation. The Charleston, the cake walk, and the flea hop to name a few were considered vulgar and moral disasters by the older generation. This relates to the class topic because a major thing that people associate the 1920s with is prohibition, the new woman - the flapper, and “Gatsby” like parties -- all considered to be morbidly immoral. This also related immensely to Middletown because of the new technologies and machines that changed the way to nuclear family worked. Even though this song wasn’t released to the public in the 1930s it could be considered a reflection of the 1920s era. Irving Berlin was not above taking the proverbial poke at the upper class of the day like the Rockefellers. This is similar to “Yankee Doodle Dandy” making fun of the Americans. The title derives from the slang expression putting on the ritz meaning to dress very fashionably inspired from the Ritz hotel “assuming the air of superiority”. The lyrics in this song reference a lot of the major events that occurred throughout the 1920’s with lines like with their noses in the air and spending every dime for a wonderful time, which illuminates the dramatic social and political changes of the era. During the years from 1920 – 1929 the nation’s wealth doubled and this growth swept many Americans into an affluent “consumer society”. Also, the first line of the song talks about Lenox Avenue, which is the primary north to south route from Upper Manhattan to Harlem and the refrain, was most likely referencing the Great Migration and the popularity in jazz and blues in Harlem. The discussion was quite short, although it included some important information. The question itself was "How do you think the rich would have reacted to this song? Do you think they would have been offended, or do you think it would simply boost their egos?". No one seemed to have a definite answer, but I gave my opinion on the matter. I stated that I believed the lyrics were not really thought about. Since this song was meant for dancing, most people probably just paid attention to the beat. 


(The Charleston)

(Fred Astaire performing a tap dance and singing "Puttin' on the Ritz)

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Yankee Doodle Boy - Billy Murray (1904)

The Yankee Doodle Boy - Billy Murray (1904) - College Football 1890-1920
Akshaya Arjunan, Divya Gupta, & Dajunonna Mikulin 
Song: "The Yankee Doodle Boy" (1904)
Writer: George M. Cohan
Singer: Billy Murray 

Source: Google Images
The Yankee Doodle Boy is derived from the well-known song Yankee Doodle Dandy. The exact origin of the song is unknown, but it is commonly thought to be first written by Richard Shuckburgh. Shuckburgh was a British army surgeon who wrote the song to make fun of the American soldiers during the French and Indian War. The song later became popular with Americans when they played it after General Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown to end fighting in the American Revolution. The song heard during the presentation was written by George M. Cohan for a musical known as Little Johnny Jones (1904). This musical was inspired by a jockey named Tod Sloan who had traveled to England a year earlier to participate in the English derby. This goes along with the theme we see in the revisions of this song. This version of the song solely got its popularity from this musical. Each time the song is rewritten, it is changed to fit the events going on during the time period, hence, the English Derby in Cohan’s version. Cohan is known as one of the greatest in Broadway history not only as a composer, but also a playwright, singer, and actor. The song is sung by Billy Murray who was well-known for singing fun, upbeat songs, including patriotic songs, “coon” songs and ethnic dialects.
New York Public Library -
Musicals 101 -
Denver Nightingale -
The song does not fit in just one period of time in history. It was first sung as “Yankee Doodle Dandy” in 1781 by the British during the war in Revolutionary America. By 1781, the “Yankee Doodle” insult was more of a point of pride and the song was like the unofficial national anthem. During the French and Indian War, the British used the insult to make fun of American troops. “Yankee” was a dismissive reference towards Americans and “doodle” was a word for a fool. George Cohan made a musical in 1942 called “Yankee Doodle Dandy”; from there this song, “Yankee Doodle Boy” came along. The film is known as one of Hollywood’s greatest. It was entertaining and patriotic, so it supported the war effort in the early 20th century. The only controversial thing about it is where and when it originated because there are endless reproductions and versions of it. The general public who attended the musical enjoyed the songs, including “Yankee Doodle Boy”. The song is usually played at patriotic events and even sporting events sometimes. It serves as a patriotic song in society, one that stands for the love and pride we have for our American independence. In terms of U.S. popular culture in this particular moment, this song tells us that we do not know much about its history or its origins. People have made different versions of songs, but I think the initial ones should be tracked more proficiently.
ABC News -
Library of Congress -
About Folk Music -
Public Broadcasting Service -
This particular song is extremely unique because of the long history that precedes it. Specifically, from the 1700s to now, the lyrics have been modified to fit the social change of that era. For example, the song “Yankee Doodle” supposedly began during the French and Indian war as a way to ridicule the American soldiers. However, after the American’s victory in the Revolutionary War, this song became a patriotic song for the Americans as a means to taunt the British for their loss. Moreover, it became a way for Americans to build morale. Therefore, during this time period, this song was very representative of this specific era. 
As mentioned previously, this song was inspired by the jockey, Tod Sloan. In the 1890s, the world of racing was amazed to find this young man who rode horses unlike any other professional jockey they had ever come across. Sloan was continually made fun of because of the unique way he rode the horse. He thrust his weight as far forward as he could rather than placing his weight towards the back. Although he was made fun of initially by traditional horse riders, his “forward seat” method became widely popular. It was George Cohan who cemented Sloan’s popularity by writing the musical Little Johnny Jones and the song Yankee Doodle Boy about Sloan’s experiences. Moreover, it is pertinent to notice that the writings of both the initial and current version of Yankee Doodle that you heard today were a result of two individuals/groups being mocked or made fun of. During this era, Yankee Doodle was considered an extremely patriotic song, so for Cohan to attribute the characteristics of a “Yankee” to Sloan would be considered highly emblematic and honorable.
When observing the lyrics of this song, it reminds us of the song “I’ve been working on the railroad”. Two unique points that this group brought up about this song is that the lyrics are racist, especially because of the use of words like “Dinah” and that the lyrics have underlying meaning that we do not always think about when we sing. For example, the initial intent of this song was to mock the Americans. The lyrics were purposely written to make fun of American soldiers during the French and Indian War. However, the Americans then took this song and sang it right back at the British after defeating them in the Revolutionary War. Although this was meant to mock the British for losing to “macaronis”, it is interesting to note that a song mocking Americans is still popular today. In addition, many of the lyrics have underlying meanings that we don’t always think about. For example, macaroni is not a type of pasta, but it refers to a fashion style that is attributed to pretentious individuals. Thus, calling Americans “macaronis” is a way of insulting Americans and their pretentiousness. The term doodle refers to a fool or gullible person. It is very interesting how these two songs, despite its potentially demeaning meaning, have became symbolic icons of our country. In fact, Yankee Doodle is actually a state song for Connecticut.
Why do you think this particular song was adapted into so many different styles throughout the past couple of centuries? Was it the origin, the tune, or the original lyrics that made people want to recreate this specific song?
There were several opinions as to why this song became so popular during so many different eras. Primarily, the origin of this song played a significant role in why it initially became popular during wartime eras. The fact that this song was a morale booster and patriotic song for the Americans led to the idea of being called a "Yankee" a compliment. Thus, this song became a good basis for reinterpretations during different eras. For example, in the song by George Cohan, a jockey named Tod Sloan was referred to as a Yankee in order to praise him for overcoming negative remarks from professional jockeys and revolutionizing the horse riding circuit. Moreover, the up beat tune and general rhythm of the song also contributed to the popularity of its spread. Despite not completely understanding what the lyrics mean, people enjoyed the ridiculousness of the words and the positive atmosphere that the music exhibited. For example, the words "macaroni" and "yankee doodle" are just fun, silly words that are enjoyable to sing and dance to thus popularizing this song throughout different generations. In summary, I believe that are two main reasons as to why this particular song was adapted into so many different versions. First, the different writers chose this song because of its origin. It was a patriotic song that holds prideful meaning for the Americans. Second, the fun sounding lyrics, up beat tune, and rhythm make it something that individuals of all ages can enjoy therefore popularizing it in the difference generations throughout the differing eras.
Loudoun County Public Schools
ABC News
National Public Radio
Amazon Book Review

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Escapism vs. extension of everyday life

Robert and Helen Lynd comment near the end of Chapter XIX of Middletown that “leisure pursuits are frequently either extensions of customary occupations to which they contribute or contrasts to the more habitual pursuits.”  Can we separate the subjects we’ve studied so far into these two categories, or do the lines blur?  How?