American Music Goes To War,
World War One in American Song
Over There, Page 2
The Ship Of Uncle Sam
Music by: Daisy M. Erd
Lyrics by: Erd
Cover artist: unknown
Though the war in the trenches seems to have captured
most attention in coverage of the first World War, the Navy played a pivotal
role in the war. Aside from providing transportation and battling the
U-boats our Navy fought battles at sea against the German Navy and shore
batteries. The first US ship to be damaged by enemy fire was on October
15, 1917 when the U. S. S. Cassin (destroyer) was torpedoed by German
submarine U-105, off the coast of Ireland, 20 miles south of Mine Head.
That action resulted in 1 killed and 9 wounded. The Cassin was later salvaged
and fought again.
I found this song somewhat intriguing as it seems to represent
a little bit of flexibility in truth in advertising. The cover clearly
states "Uncle Sam's Ships" and carries a complete listing (presumably)
of the entire fleet of the US Navy, from tenders to battleships. From
the cover, one would think that the song is about all the ships of the
Navy. However, once the song inside is seen, we see the actual title as
The Ship Of Uncle Sam and find that the song is a tribute to the USS Melville.
The Melville was a Destroyer Tender. She was built at New York Shipbuilding
Co., Camden and commissioned in 1915. Her vital statistics are: Displacement:
6,748 tons (full load) Length: 417'3" Beam: 54'4" Draft: 22' Speed: 13.5
knots (max); 9 knots (econ) Armament: 2 5"/51; 4 3"/50 DP; 2x2 40mm; 8
20mm Complement: Turbine engines, single screw, 4,000 h.p.
The composer, Daisy M. Pratt Erd, is listed on the inside cover as a
Chief Yeoman, USNRF. Interestingly, the F was for "Female."
Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels took advantage of the fact that
the 1916 law which created the Naval Reserve used the word personnel rather
than male when referring to Navy Yeoman and authorized the enlistment
of woman as Yeoman (F) on March 19, 1917. Within a month the Navy swore
in the first officially recognized enlisted women in U.S. history. The
11,274 Yeoman (F), popularly known as "Yeomanettes", who served in W.W.I
were recruited to "Free a Man to Fight". Some
of the Yeoman (F) served as chief petty officers but none were commissioned.
Daisy Pratt Erd was made Chief Yeoman in charge of women at the Boston
Navy Yard with more than 200 women under her supervision and was recommended
for an officer’s commission by Congressman James Gallivan but Secretary
Daniels explained, "I have no authority to make a woman an ensign and
I have given orders that no men shall be made ensigns who do not pass
the examinations necessary to qualify them for important duty at sea."
(above information obtained from http://www.gendergap.com/military/USmil4.htm)
Central! Give Me No Man's Land
Music by: Jean Schwartz
Lyrics by: Sam M. Lewis & Joe Young
Cover artist: Barbelle
The effect of war on children and family played a huge part in the music
of the war. As we saw last month with His Buttons Are Marked U.S. and
again this month with this song and others, the bewilderment and simple
understanding of children makes for great musical story telling
This song was introduced by the great Al Jolson in the stage play Sinbad
at the Winter Garden in New York. This same show also spawned the
mega-hit Swanee by George Gershwin. Though Sinbad was a war oriented production,
it managed to balance the war issues with plenty of other sentiments.
The composer, Jean Schwartz (b. 1878 Budapest - d. 1956, Los Angeles)
came to America in 1891 with his family. He started his musical career
as a song plugger and pianist for Shapiro Bernsten. His first song composition
was Don't Put Me Off At Buffalo Any More in 1901 with William Jerome.
He wrote quite a few popular songs over many, many years, teaming up with
most of the great lyricists of the times. Perhaps his greatest known work
was Rock-a-bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody in 1927.
Hello Central Give Me No Man's Land is a very moving song that tells
the story of a child trying to call her Daddy and trying to understand
why her mother is upset. It has a wonderfully expressive melody and if
you are familiar with Jolson, you can just imagine him singing this song
with the delicacy and tenderness the melody begs for.
Three Wonderful Letters
Music by: James F. Hanley
Lyrics by: Joe Goodwin & Ballard MacDonald
Cover artist: Barbelle
Here we have another wonderful song about family and home. Having been
in the Navy and at sea aboard a Destroyer, I can attest to the importance
of letters from home. It gets lonesome out there, even in peace time and
I can only imagine how much more important it would be if I were sitting
in a muddy trench with nothing but death and destruction around me. This
song tells us about a soldier who receives three letters of love and support
from home, one each from his mother, wife and daughter. It is another
touching and well written ballad from the golden age of song.
The composer, James F. Hanley wrote some of America's greatest hits,
including Back Home Again In Indiana, Zing! Went The Strings Of My
Heart and Rose Of Washington Square.
Ain't Got Weary Yet
Music by: Percy Wenrich
Lyrics by: Howard Johnson
Cover artist: unknown
In last month's feature and essay, we featured a song titled Where Do
We Go From Here, by the same songwriting team. This month, we present
yet another good humored and light look at the war from them that tells
us about a soldier "over there" writing home to his wife that
he has "been wounded in this fight, shot at sunrise, gassed at night,
outside of that I feel all right but I ain't got weary yet."
In a way, that line tells the story of the soldier fighting the trench
war but handles it so humorously and lightly that the real truth and horror
of it simply escapes you. The song goes on to tell about the soldiers
exploits in chasing down a Hun and his desire to bring him in alive because
"I just shot five". It's funny how music can take a very serious
and terrible subject and make it seem like fun. One interesting thing
about the chorus of this song is the alternative line about "all
the French girls that I see, Beg to sit upon my knee." It seems pretty
unlikely that anyone except a suicidal maniac would write a line like
that to his wife back home!
Percy Wenrich ( b.1887, Joplin, MO, d. 1952, New York City) was a prolific
and popular composer of the period. He studied at the Chicago Musical
College and he and his wife, Dolly Connolly were successful and acclaimed
vaudevillians. He was skilled in virtually all genres of popular music
having composed excellent Rags, ballads, novelty songs and more serious
songs throughout his career. He wrote many famous and lasting songs such
as Put On Your Old Gray Bonnet, When You Wore A Tulip, Moonlight Bay
and The Smiler. We have featured quite a few of his works on our
site over the years and may dedicate an entire issue to him sometime in
Music by: James F. Hanley
Lyrics by: Ballard MacDonald, Edward Madden
Cover artist: unknown
Unlike the previous song and others featured this month, there were some
songs that dared to face the truth and reality of the war. War Babies
is such a song. This one is a hard hitting straight to the point message
about the cruelty of war and the helpless victims such as children. Just
look at the cover! It is one of the most shocking covers I have seen from
this period in American music. All those poor orphaned kids, standing
there before their devastated city with no where to go.
The lyrics are even worse. Talk about a guilt trip, this is the original
"save the kids" effort that would have to soften even the hardest
of hearts. The lyrics speak to the need for taking care of these orphans
of war. Overall, the lyrics are pretty painful. I can't imagine such a
somber and painful song being bought by many people. I can't imagine anyone
wanting to prominently display this on their piano. It is too real, too
much a reminder of the pain and sorrowful outcome of war.
The composer, James F. Hanley, is the same who wrote Three Wonderful
Letters From Home, featured above. This song is also a very expressive
waltz and it is clear that Hanley put a lot of emotion into his work.
you have seen our featured songs, be sure to read our Essay
On World War One Music, Part Two for more information about W.W.I music,
how it affected our lives and the war and how it helped the war effort. See
more covers and hear a few more songs there too including the classic Rose
of No Man's Land and After The War Is Over.
We hope you have enjoyed this month's feature and we appreciate
your interest in our efforts to bring you the best American popular music history
site on the web. Be sure to tell your friends and family about us. If you have
suggestions for themes or issues you would like to see in the future, please
contact us. We will see you back next month for the third and final installment
in this series about American Music from World war One. The third issue will
present you with music written after the war ended and the boys were coming
home. You won't want to miss the next installment in the series so stay tuned!
Have a great month.
We hope you are enjoying this month's feature. To see the other
songs featured this month again, go back to part A.
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