Serendipity Talk: The Songs of World War II
Popular music was central to the shared experience of World War II. Even though no central thematic song emerged to come close to the role "Over There" played in World War I, with almost universal radio ownership, widespread use of phonographs (including wind-up ones supplied to US troops overseas), and the practice of playing music in factories, the music of the first half of the 1940s was a pervasive part of the culture.
The government did try to harness popular music for the war effort, working with composers and lyricists to produce tunes like "Any Bonds Today?" and "A Slip of the Lip" and there were a handful of popular songs about military heroics, like "Coming In on a Wing and a Prayer" and "Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima." But the core of popular music has always been the love song, and it is there that Tin Pan Alley really so effectively refitted its product to the sad fact that he and she could not be together. The popular songs had the men in uniform and, more importantly, the gals back home assuring each other of enduring love and fidelity: "No Love, No Nothing," "I’ll Walk Alone," "Saturday Night Is the Loneliest Night of the Year," and so many more.
We’ll listen to and watch clips of these songs and many more, and have a chance to share our own memories of hearing these tunes at the time or hearing about them later from an older generation.
For almost a decade, Daniel B. Moskowitz has led OLLI courses about American popular music. He was too young during World War II to jitterbug to the prevalent swing music, but he does well remember the songs heard so frequently on the radio.
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