America, Here’s My Boy
America, Here's My Boy
During World War One, propaganda and the influence of media were at a purposeful high. One way the entertainment business helped bring the people of the United States together during this time was through music. Music provided an outlet for everyday people to forget their worries for a few minutes. During World War One, music in the United States was used not only as entertainment, however, but also as a way to help galvanize citizens in support of the United States’ involvement in the First World War. One song in particular that succeeded at this was “America, Here's My Boy.” This song tells part of the story of American life during the early 1900s, and addresses the average American family, and even more specifically the mothers of the United States.
“America, Here's My Boy” was published by the Joe Morris Music Company of New York City in 1917. The music was composed by Arthur Lange and was accompanied with the lyrics written by Andrew B. Sterling. This song was originally written to be performed by a piano and a singer, but many versions would be made. This song tells the story of one million American mothers allegedly ready to send their sons to fight for the country they love. The lyrics of this song tell a powerful message of dedication to one’s country. Among the lines that resonate the profound depth of this song is the end of the chorus. These extraordinary lines state: “America, he is my only one; My hope, my pride and joy, but if I had another, he would march beside his brother; America, here's my boy.”
These lyrics not only demonstrate the poignant tone of the song, but also depict the dedication of the home front. The song hints at the theme of the responsibilities of a mother, and their job to instill the values of patriotism which they hold into their sons. In fact, the song essentially demonstrates expected gender roles: for women of the United States, having a son or more than one and sending him off to war is the ultimate duty of a woman. Both the music and the album cover depict the true meaning behind this song. In this instance we see a mother presenting her son dressed in military attire with the shape of the United States behind them.
One of the most popular songs during the year of 1917, this song would have been played and performed all through the country--in shops, beer halls, and many other public establishments. This song, written in the voice of a true patriotic mother, sought to gather more men for the army. These mothers were not only willing to let their child fight for the United States, but they were also willing to let their child die for the United States. This song thus not only gives us a glimpse of what life might have been like in 1917 for both women and men but also shows the potential effect media and propaganda had on citizens. Since the people of the United States weren’t all in favor of entering the great war in Europe, the United States used propaganda via entertainment to help turn the public’s point of view. Music was one of the most powerful tools the government and the entertainment business had at that time. Music remains one of the most powerful ways to bring people together. By studying and “resounding” these songs it gives us a new perspective of understanding the home front during the First World War.
"America Here's My Boy." Library of Congress. Accessed May 12, 2018. https://www.loc.gov/item/2013568887/.
Meyer, Jana. “Music in Wartime: Song Composition during the First World War.” The Filson Historical Society. Accessed May 14, 2018. https://filsonhistorical.org/music-in-wartime-song-composition-during-th....
Lucas Allen is a History major at Virginia Tech who plans to graduate in the spring of 2019. After graduation, he hopes to get a job working in one of the 4-H Extension Offices of Virginia as a Youth Development Agent. While working, he plans to obtain a Master’s degree in Education. Some of his hobbies are playing soccer and any other outdoor activities like canoeing, kayaking, and hiking.
Aspiring music educator and soprano, Maggie Good is dedicated to encouraging others to recognize the importance of music in all disciplines and stages of life. She studies under Amy Cowan at Virginia Tech and has been a part of master classes with Corey Crider, Todd Wedge, Chris Brandis, and Andre Thomas. Her credits as a pianist include being a seven time National Piano Guild Winner. Outside of music, she is a residential advisor with Virginia Tech’s Housing and Residence Life.
Tracy Cowden serves as Faculty Chair of Music, teaches piano, and coaches voice. As a collaborative pianist, she frequently performs with a diverse array of soloists and chamber ensembles. She is a passionate advocate for new music, and has premiered many new chamber works with colleagues around the country.
Eli Stine is a composer, programmer, and educator. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Composition and Computer Technologies as a Jefferson Fellow at the University of Virginia. Stine's work explores electroacoustic sound, multimedia technologies (often custom-built software, video projection, and multi-channel speaker systems), and collaboration between disciplines (artistic and otherwise).
There's a million mothers knocking at the nations door,
A million mothers, yes and there'll be millions more,
And while within each mother heart they pray,
Just hark what one brave mother has to say.
"America, I raised a boy for you,
America, you'll find him staunch and true.
Place a gun upon his shoulder, he is ready to die or do.
America he is my only one; my hope, my pride and joy,
But if I had another, he would march beside his brother;
America, here's my boy."
There's a million mothers waiting by the fireside bright.
A million mothers, waiting for the call tonight.
And while within each heart there'll be a tear,
She'll watch her boy go marching with a cheer.