Cover image for God bless America : Tin Pan Alley goes to war
God bless America : Tin Pan Alley goes to war
Smith, Kathleen E. R.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Lexington, Ky. : The University Press of Kentucky, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiii, 274 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
What this country needs is a good five cent war song! -- "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition" -- "There's nary an 'Over there' in the lot" -- War songs in boy-girl terms -- War is good for the music business -- "Yearnful bellowings" -- Recipes for war songs -- Just love songs with a once-over-lightly war background -- The National Wartime Music Committee -- "From cantata to outright corn" -- Tin Pan Alley's music war committee -- Tin Pan Alley still seeks the "proper" war song -- Even stale music sells like nylons -- Jitterbugs and bobby-soxers -- "Meet Soozie Cue".

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML3477 .S65 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



After Pearl Harbor, Tin Pan Alley songwriters rushed to write the Great American War Song -- an "Over There" for World War II. The most popular songs, however, continued to be romantic ballads, escapist tunes, or novelty songs. To remedy the situation, the federal government created the National Wartime Music Committee, an advisory group of the Office of War Information (OWI), which outlined "proper" war songs, along with tips on how and what to write. The music business also formed its own Music War Committee to promote war songs.

Neither group succeeded. The OWI hoped that Tin Pan Alley could be converted from manufacturing love songs to manufacturing war songs just as automobile plants had retooled to assemble planes and tanks. But the OWI failed to comprehend the large extent by which the war effort would be defined by advertisers and merchandisers. Selling merchandise was the first priority of Tin Pan Alley, and the OWI never swayed them from this course.

Kathleen E.R. Smith concludes the government's fears of faltering morale did not materialize. Americans did not need such war songs as "Goodbye, Mama, I'm Off To Yokohama", "There Are No Wings On a Foxhole", or even "The Sun Will Soon Be Setting On The Land Of The Rising Sun" to convince them to support the war. The crusade for a "proper" war song was misguided from the beginning, and the music business, then and now, continues to make huge profits selling love -- not war -- songs.

Author Notes

Kathleen E. R. Smith is assistant professor of history at Northwestern State University of Louisiana.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Smith (history, Northwestern State University of Louisiana) has compiled a rich overview of popular songs during the early 1940s. "The quest for the Great American War song of World War II occupied the American music industry for most of the war years," she begins. Despite a rush of war songs, only a few gained popularity, among them "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition." Love and sentimental songs, along with novelty and swing numbers, were vastly preferred by soldiers and civilians alike. At first the music industry tried to encourage war songs, and soon the Federal government, through the Office of War Information (OWI), entered the fray. But all attempts to promote popular war songs failed, and much of the text focuses on the OWI's frustrations. Drawing on a range of primary and secondary sources listed in the full notes and bibliography (which is, however, missing many recent specialized studies), the author brings together a complete survey of the songs and composers. Although the narrative is somewhat redundant. Numerous illustrations and a selected discography are helpful. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Academic libraries supporting courses in popular culture at the upper-division undergraduate level and above; large public collections. R. D. Cohen Indiana University Northwest

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
1. What this Country Needs Is a Good Five-Cent War Song!p. 1
2. "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition"p. 12
3. "There's Nary an 'Over There' in the Lot"p. 18
4. War Songs in Boy-Girl Termsp. 26
5. War Is Good for the Music Businessp. 39
6. "Yearnful Bellowings"p. 50
7. Recipes for War Songsp. 62
8. Just Love Songs with a Once-Over-Lightly War Backgroundp. 68
9. The National Wartime Music Committeep. 81
10. "From Cantata to Outright Corn"p. 96
11. Tin Pan Alley's Music War Committeep. 114
12. Tin Pan Alley Still Seeks the "Proper" War Songp. 128
13. Even Stale Music Sells Like Nylonsp. 143
14. Jitterbugs and Bobby-Soxersp. 153
15. "Meet Soozie Cue"p. 160
Notesp. 179
Bibliographyp. 201
Selected Discographyp. 225
Indexp. 255