Armistice Monument at Compiègne, France

World War One As Illustrated On Sheet Music, Part Three

In parts one and part two of this series we looked at the issues before and during the war and some of the ways our music began to change as America entered and participated in the War. We saw that song played a prominent role in defining America's position(s) on the war and that the music publishing industry jumped into the fray with vigor and enthusiasm. As our boys went over there and the War developed, our music continued to change to reflect the situation. In our final installment, we will finalize our look at music during the war and look at some changes that were wrought as a result of this important period of American and World history..

Last month we looked at the role of the Red Cross in the war and music related to the nurses of the Red Cross. Another very significant organization that supported the troops was the Salvation Army. Though today, we see much less of them than in the past, the Salvation Army was a major player in providing hot food and rest stations for the troops, both at the front and at home. Here we see a couple of "Salvation Lassies" at the front offering pies and scrumptious doughnuts to the troops. Their services and sacrifices made by the S.A. meant a great deal to the troops overseas. The Salvation Army people were right there at the front, often risking their own lives, in rather poor conditions to cook and provide comfort. Many many songs were written about the Salvation Army and their role. One such song is the great Caddigan and Story song from 1919, Salvation Lassie of Mine, seen here. Give a listen and see what they had to say about the Salvation Lassies. Just click on the cover to see and hear the scorch version. Click here for the midi version.

"When the United States entered World War I, the Salvation Army was ready. Commander Evangeline Booth (1865-1950) sent a wire to President Woodrow Wilson, placing the personnel of The Salvation Army at his disposal in the United States for any service that it could provide. The Salvation Army began to organize the War Work Council creating a War Service League. This League functioned in knitting and sewing circles, making sweaters, socks and other personal items. These were distributed through the Red Cross. The Salvation Army War Board began programs in US Army camps and canteens across the country. Many huts and hostels with canteen services were established. Food and beverages were provided for the soldiers, along with books, writing supplies and opportunities for recreation. The overseas work was also important and received most of the publicity. Officers and men from the American Expeditionary Forces (including General Pershing) were most appreciative of the services provided. The Salvation Army personnel were sent directly to the front line, and moved with the AEF as they moved across France. These Huts were tent-like buildingswhere the famous doughnuts were created, along with pies, cakes and other home-baked goods.

The soldiers were given a "home away from home" and had the opportunity to sing, read, write letters, and attend church services. Lt. Colonel Helen Purviance is considered the "first doughnut girl" of The Salvation Army. In 1917, the newly commissioned Ensign Purviance was sent to France. She and other Salvationists would conduct religious services, concerts and baked treats for the "doughboys".

Using limited rations and an open stove, Helen and her fellow officers rolled out doughnuts. They rolled the dough using a wine bottle (they were in France !) and fried the dough over the fire. Soon the aroma drew the soldiers to the hut and they lined up, waiting for their turn. Only 150 doughnuts were made that first day; however, once the assembly line was created, up to 9,000 were made daily! Along the front lines, the doughnuts became the symbol of The Salvation Army's will to bring a touch of home to the soldiers. A small token of sweetness, it has remained in the public's mind for many years as a symbol of warm friendship and service to those in need thinking their kids will be cannon mincemeat."
(Quoted history from the Salvation Army USA website at )

Here is yet another great Salvation Lassie devotional song from 1919 by Robert Levenson and Jack Mendelsohn.

Throughout the war, we sang of love and loneliness, of helping and winning but behind it all was one simple hope, that peace would come Click the cover for the Scorch version, here for the MIDI version.and the soldier return to his home and loved ones. When the day finally came, we could hardly contain ourselves and the stores were filled with song after song that proclaimed the "Greatest Day The World Will Ever Know" (from the 1919 song of the same title). You have seen a small sampling of them in this month's feature but there were hundreds more composed. Virtually every composer in the land joined in the chorus of praise and celebration for the end of the war and the troops return home. The volume of titles is astounding with titles such as; It's All Over Now, Take Me Back To New York Town, Jim, Jim I Always Knew You'd Win, Hurrah For Liberty Boys, There's A Light Shining Bright and all the featured songs this month.

As the sun set on the war, music began to turn away from the past and move towards a new future. The Jazz Age had begun in earnest and though we would continue to see songs like the great hits we present in Parlor Songs each month, change was in the air. This great song by Gilbert Tennant symbolizes the end of the war and the changes coming in American Popular Music. Click on the cover for the Scorch version, click here for the MIDI.

In Europe, popular music was much affected by the end of the war, particularly by the disappearance of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and it's society that spawned and nurtured the Viennese waltz. America found its styles of ragtime and fox-trot consolidated and jazz emerged as a dominant force. That change came about as much due to the introduction of technology such as recordings and mechanical pianos that allowed people to enjoy music with little or no musical training. Up to that time, with popular music 's prime method of distribution being sheet music, it was intended mostly for the home and for performance by home performers. With the growth of records and films, popular music was brought to millions who could not read music. The change was profound. Enjoyment of music became more passive, taking the form of listening rather than performing. That change permitted composers to create more complex and stylistically difficult music and we began to see a change in the style of music. Of course, sheet music continued to be important and we continued to see the sanguine style of ballad and happy tunes as we had always seen, but new directions had been set.

Not only was music more complex, but with the changes wrought by the war, music became less innocent and coy in its style. The war had made us face modern times and horrible things. Never again would we be so isolated or so paternally structured in our society. Women were becoming liberated, sex, booze and drugs were more openly talked about and music began to reflect those issues as well as modern times. One era ended in American music and another began. Certainly not bad, for the jazz age brought us the Likes of Jerome Kern, Paul Whiteman, the Gershwins and a delightful period of music that just as the age that came before it, produced a stunning cavalcade of music that would entertain us and the world till today.

That concludes our look at popular music during World War One. As I finished this issue, I realized that I had mentioned the Navy and the Army but left out the marine corps so to end our series with a flourish, how about a rousing chorus of The Marines' Hymn from a 1919 issue. Click the cover for the Scorch version, click here for the MIDI version. By the way, did you know that the melody for the The Marines' Hymn is from an Offenbach opera? Have a wonderful new millennium.

In Memorium, for all who lost their lives for our freedom.

This article was in three parts, if you would like to return to parts one or two, click here for part one and here for part two

To return to our featured music this month, click here.

January, 2001

A major source for much of the text discussion is from a variety of sources and the aforementioned Ann Latella article. All sheet music covers and songs are from the ParlorSongs collection. See our references page for details of our complete bibliography used for research for this and other essays in this series. Images of the war are from The University of Kansas archive "Photos of The Great War", This article as well as all content of the ParlorSongs site is copyrighted. We ask that you respect our work and contact us if you want to use any of this material.

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