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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Monday, July 29

Caruso sings Cohan

Synopsis

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

Additional Information

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