Music during World War I was greatly influenced by and centered around a district in New York City between 5th Avenue and Broadway called “Tin Pan Alley.” There was nothing extra special about this area; it’s just where songwriters, publishers and arrangers congregated to get their inspirations and compilations for their music live. Propaganda of any kind, that proved to be effective, was used to achieve the goal of persuasion and manipulation. Propaganda in its many forms was employed nationally and internationally including but not limited to American songs, films, images, plays, African-American Musicians and the like. Tin Pan Alley was a cauldron of raw creativity.
George Michael Cohan was heavily associated with the area of New York known as Tin Pan Alley. George Michael Cohan (July 3, 1878 – November 5, 1942), known professionally as George M. Cohan, was an American entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer and producer. Cohan began his career as a child, performing with his parents and sister in a vaudeville act known as "The Four Cohans." Beginning with Little Johnny Jones in 1904, he wrote, composed, produced, and appeared in more than three dozen Broadway musicals. Cohan published more than 300 songs during his lifetime, including the standards "Over There", "Give My Regards to Broadway", "The Yankee Doodle Boy" and "You're a Grand Old Flag". As a composer, he was one of the early members of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). He displayed remarkable theatrical longevity, appearing in films until the 1930s, and continuing to perform as a headline artist until 1940.
The purpose of this document and its accompanying lecture recital is to demonstrate some of ways that propaganda was employed in the United States especially as evident in George Cohan’s compositions and how through successful employment of that propaganda he cemented himself in the annals of American history.
Methodologies include an exploration into the use of propaganda in America and Cohan’s biography specifically as it pertains to his composition style, performance career and professional associations because these factors seem to significantly impact the type of compositions produced by Cohan. For each setting there will be an examination of melody, harmony, rhythm, form, and texture; and an analysis of the relationship between certain communities’ feelings about the war and Cohan’s music. A comparison will be made of any significant style differences used between pro-war and anti-war propaganda. Another significant part of this research will be the iconography used during this world war, in the form of posters, pictures, magazine ads, advertisements, and jingles or commercials and how they would have subliminally “celebrated” or “shamed” citizens for their participation or lack thereof in supporting the country’s war efforts. The final chapter provides conclusions and observations based on the comparison of musical settings, the popularity of these compositions, and the impact that his music had on the American people. The lecture recital will be a distillation of the document with performance of specifically explored works to demonstrate salient aspects. An outline of the document follows is also available upon request.||