Men of Popular Music

Men of Popular Music

Men of Popular Music

Men of Popular Music

Excerpt

Our popular music is as old as our country. We fought our Revolution with popular songs. Our first hit was the "Liberty Song" ( 1768) -- lyrics by John Otis, the music borrowed from William Boyce "Hearts of Oak" -- which expressed the political fever of pre- Revolutionary America so aptly that it was soon adopted as the official song of the Sons of Liberty. Our first successful composer of popular songs was William Billings ( 1746-1800), who earns consideration as the direct ancestor of Tin Pan Alley troubadours by virtue of his rousing Revolutionary War songs. These were adapted by Billings from his own psalm tunes and were sung extensively in camps, on battlefields, and in town halls; one of them, "Chester", is often spoken of as the "Marseillaise" of the Revolutionary War. With songs we described the birth pains of a nation, and with songs we echoed the temper of a pioneer people in the face of early social, Political, and economic problems that confronted them as they led America out of her infancy.

Yet, though we can date our popular music back to the period of our national birth, it is only since the twentieth century opened that this music has acquired a personality of its own as well as musical significance. To go -- as I have lately gone -- through thousands of popular songs which Americans have sung since 1770 . . .

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