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Welcome to music of the second world war era—Page 5



the music

This is the music that was popular in the United States and Great Britain in the last half of the 40s and first few years of the 50s. Some of it is the music that the maquis of the French resistance flaunted in the face of their German oppressor during the darkest days of the Occupation.

The radio blared Swing side-by-side with crooners lamenting about the boys coming home. Songs about what-if-I-never-to-come-home? and what-you-should-do-while-I'm-away and what-you-should-not-to-do-while-I'm-away and what-we'll-do-when-I-come-home-(that-is-if-I-come-home) filled the airwaves. Dressed in coveralls, Rosie the Riveter hummed a light-hearted tune and dreamed about boys while she made guns and tanks and planes in such numbers, she established the U.S. as "the Arsenal of Democracy."

Lili Marlene—the Lonely side of war

The private, somber side of war found voice in a simple song called Lili Marlene. Lili Marlene, which tells a tale of love, separation, and longing, touched a nerve in soldiers on both sides in two world wars.

  • See what happened when Lili Marlene became a popular war song: click here.

A Slip Of the Lip (Can Sink A Ship)—the dangerous side of war

L. Henderson and Mercer Ellington (Duke's son) put the Slip of the Lip idea to music when they wrote A Slip of the Lip (Can Sink a Ship) in 1942. We hear the original 1942 performance sung by Ray Nance.

  • Hear a portion of the Slip of the Lip song: click here.

Rosie the Riveter—the heartland

The 1943 Saturday Post featured a cover of Rosie painted by Norman Rockwell. It was published by the Curtis Publishing Company, Indianapolis, Indiana. Notice the medals on Rosie's chest, presumably awards for meeting production goals.

In 1942 Evans and Loeb wrote a song to honor the Rosies of the war and named it Rosie the Riveter. It became the symbol of Rosies everywhere. The performance below was recorded by the Four vagabonds in 1943.

  • Hear a portion of the song that honors Rosie the Riveter: click here.

Note the references to ...helping her man, ...sabotage (c.f., A Slip of the Lip), and ...a Production E, which stood for Efficiency. It took Evans and Loeb only about a minute to work all three topics into their song. These three topics were among those drummed into everyone's heads by wartime propaganda machinery; including them couldn't hurt the song's chances of getting published.

Rosies shared the same desire for victory that all Americans shared. In addition, they had many motives that were specific to their sex. Some wanted to prove once and for all that women had what it took, which they did. Others worked to put themselves in the thick of the fight. A Rosie felt that she was helping her man in uniform, no matter how indirect that help might be.

Many Rosies stayed loyal to their man throughout the war and greeted him on his return. Sadly, many others did not. All too often, a Rosie would send a Dear John letter to the front to inform her soldier or sailor that she had had second thoughts about him, had lost interest, or had found another—a real morale buster.

  • Visit a web site dedicated to the women who worked in WWII factories and shipyards: click here.

Richmond, Washington was home to 56 different war industries, more than any other city of its size in the United States. The National Park Service has created a Rosie the Riveter park in Richmond to honor their service.

  • Visit the NPS Rosie the Riveter web site: click here.

The B-17 Flying Fortress was built by Boeing in Seattle, Washington. Thousands of B-17s were built there by thousands of Rosies.

  • See pictures of some of these women and read the story of one of these heroines at the EAA web site: click here.

Norman Rockwell created his own version of Rosie for a 1943 Saturday Evening Post magazine cover. In 2002 the original painting was auctioned by Sotheby's for almost $5 million.

  • Read the story behind the Norman Rockwell cover painting of Rosie. Visit the Rosie the Riveter web site: click here.

Did you know that in 1999 a U.S. postage stamp was issued to honor Rosie's contribution to the war effort?

  • See an image of the stamp above on this page: click here.
  • Visit the Stamps.net web site for details: click here.

the Duckworth chant—the indoctrination

No matter where he went in the battle zone, a GI could expect Kilroy to have beaten him there. Jody was another mythical figure akin to Kilroy. As the line in the chant goes, "Jody was there when you left."

Jody was always "there" when a GI left home to join up. Jody's job was to stay behind and fill the recruit's shoes with his girl when the recruit was no longer there to guard his nest. Jody is still playing this role in today's U.S. army. Jody is memorialized in the Duckworth Chant.

The Duckworth Chant, written by Pfc. Willie Duckworth, was popularized by Vaughn Monroe in a record he made called Sound Off. The original recording of the chant was performed by Sgt. Henry Felice and the Rehabilitation Center Class at Fort Slocum near New Rochelle, N.Y. and was recorded on a special unnumbered V-Disc in 1945. (More about V-Discs later). You may recognize the melody and format; it's a classic reminiscent of chants like it that were done by other army units throughout the war, chants that have been performed in and between wars ever since. It's a gem.

This is the army—the morale boosters

Irving Berlin organized and wrote a musical about army life called This Is the Army. The musical was performed by genuine U.S. Army draftees and enlisted men. It toured the United States to raise money for army war relief, sell U.S. War Bonds, and bolster moral. This Is the Army was in part a recreation of a similar musical Berlin wrote in WWI called Yip-Yip-Yaphank, which had the same objectives.

Berlin had originally written his great war song, Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning, a brilliant and clever depiction of the realities of barracks life, for the WWI musical Yip Yip Yap Yank. Berlin was not naturally an early riser, and the song has an autobiographical bent that makes it all the more appealing. Berlin had dressed in uniform every night to sing it. It was about himself.

Now, in WWII, This Is the Army featured the same song in an almost identical scene that recreated the first bygone performances in WWI. Despite his age, Berlin again dressed in uniform every night to sing Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning, this time with a chorus of WWII soldiers instead of WWII soldiers.

After WWII, This Is the Army was made into a Hollywood musical, a movie still occasionally shown on television. In the movie, Berlin performs the same song in the same scene, still in his WWI uniform. This scene in the movie is a must-see.

Here we offer three excerpts from the original cast recording of the Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning scene from This Is the Army, a recording made on July 28, 1942. The lead voice is that of the great Irving Berlin singing his own composition.

  • Hear the cast set the scene for the reenactment: click here.
  • Hear Irving Berlin sing the verse and refrain: click here.
  • Hear Irving Berlin and chorus sing the finale: click here.

a zoot suit (For My Sunday Gal)—hep cats, zoot suiters, and subversives

Are you in the groove? Can you "dig a zoot suit with a reet pleat and a drape shape and a stuff cuff to look sharp enough to see your Sunday gal?" Want to hear more of this once-cool but now quaint jive talk?

Explore the 1941 song called A Zoot Suit (For My Sunday Gal). It's a great way to transport yourself to wartime America when the zoot suit was all the rage and Swing was the thing.

Explore A Zoot Suit (For My Sunday Gal)

  • Explore A Zoot Suit (For My Sunday Gal) now. When finished return here: click here

This is the fifth page of the feature titled Gone But Not Forgotten: Welcome to Music of the Second World War Era. Where to next?

Happy Swinging!


Much more about zoot suits and zoot suiters

Click here for the zoot suit story

More about zoot suits and zoot suiters.

Click this guy

Hep is a word from a dead form of slang called jive talk. It may be a dead language now, but in WWII jive talk was in. Jive was the language of cool cats, and no cats were cooler than zoot suiters.

Explore the zoot suit men and women, the suit, and the history, including the Zoot Suit Riots and the French Zoot Suiters, the Zazous.

click here

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Exploring the Arts Foundation
Today's Special Feature
To Do

Lili Marlene

A Slip Of The Lip

Rosie The Riveter

Duckworth Chant

This Is The Army

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