Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Thursday, July 4

Born on the Fourth of July?

Synopsis

Today we celebrate three legendary figures in American popular music.

The first is Stephen Foster, the great American songwriter of the 19th century who composed 189 classic songs including “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Old Folks at Home.” Foster was born on this date in 1826 in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania.

The second figure we honor today is the incredibly influential 20th century jazz trumpeter, Louis Armstrong, who claimed to have been born on this date in New Orleans in the year 1900.

It seems too good to be true that Foster and Armstrong should both have been born on the Fourth of July—in fact, Armstrong’s real birthday occurred on August 4, 1901. Apparently, Armstrong wasn’t sure of the exact details, so he and his agent decided that it would be good publicity for Armstrong to be born on the Fourth of July and at the start of the new century.

The great Vaudeville and Broadway song and dance man, George M. Cohan, also believed he was born on the Fourth of July, in 1878—a public misconception reinforced by the famous 1942 biographical film of Cohan’s life, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” starring James Cagney as George M.

The belated discovery of Cohan’s birth certificate, however, proved that a Yankee Doodle Dandy he may have been, but one actually born on the THIRD of July.

Music Played in Today's Program

Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881) Souvenirs d'Amerique Tchaikovsky Chamber Orchestra; Lazar Gosman, cond. CBS/Sony 45529

George M. Cohan (1878-1942) George M! Overture New York City Opera Orchestra; Paul Gemignani, cond. MusicMaster 67099

Additional Information

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