In 1917, on the day the United States declared war in Germany, the American song-writer and former vaudeville showman George M. Cohan composed a song titled “Over There,” based on the first three notes of a military bugle-call.
On today’s date the following year, the great Italian tenor Enrico Caruso performed Cohan’s song for an audience of 10,000 at an open-air concert in Ocean Grove, N.J. Musical America reported (quote): “It was a great opportunity for the rocking-chair brigade, which had never in its whole life witnessed such an outpouring of humans. And the automobiles! The Ocean Grove police department had BOTH its hands busy directing the traffic, extricating Fords from Rolls-Royces and preventing them from parking on the pathways.”
Caruso’s 1918 rendition of “Over There,” despite his heavily Italian-accented English, was the smash hit. “The audience got up on its 20,000 feet and yelled with delight,” reported Musical America, which also noted that Cohan had completed a brand new patriotic song addressed to the troops overseas, ending with the lines, “When you come back, and you will come back, There’s a whole world waiting for you.”
In 1936, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt presented Cohan with the Congressional Gold Medal for his contributions to World War I morale, in particular for his songs "You're a Grand Old Flag” and "Over There."
Music Played in Today's Program
George M. Cohan (1878-1942) (arr. Bennett) – Over There (Cincinnati Pops; Erich Kunzel, cond.) Telarc 80175
George M. Cohan (1878-1942) – Over There (Enrico Caruso, tenor) (recorded July 11, 1918) RCA/BMG 60495
On This Day
1865 - Russian composer Alexander Glazunov, in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: August 10)
1887 - Hungarian born American operetta composer Sigmund Romberg, in Nagy Kanizsa; He came to the U.S. in 1909, and settled in New York City, where his over 70 operettas were produced from 1914-1945
1900 - Soviet composer Alexander Mosolov, in Kiev (Gregorian date: August 10)
1925 - Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, in Chios; He achieved international fame for his score for the 1965 film "Zorba the Greek"
1856 - German composer Robert Schumann, age 46, at an insane asylum in Endenich (near Bonn
1879 - Dvorák: String Quartet in Eb, Op. 51, in Berlin, by the Joachim Quartet
1962 - Gene Gutchë: Symphony No. 5 for strings, in Chautauqua, N.Y.
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About Composers Datebook®
Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.
He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.