Case in Point


This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

Singing the Shower: The Old Testament and Cohan and Loesser

For this Fourth of July celebration, I turn now to patriotic songs of the Great Biblical Songbook — and the first song is a patriotic song of victory being sung by Moses and the boys on one side and Miriam and the girls on the other side in Exodus 15 in celebrating the defeat of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea: quote “Sing to the LORD for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.” end of quote

Carrying that same idea of celebrating military victory to the Great American Songbook, I think of George M. Cohan’s rousing 1917 World War I Tin Pan Alley song “Over There” sung here by Bob Hope-favorite Francis Langford, backed up by the American soldiers on the European front. If you don’t want to stand up and cheer for the Yank soldiers during this song you don’t understand World War I.

(“Over There.” performed Francis Langford and the troops)

For his patriotic songs Cohan received the first Congressional Gold Medal ever given to a performing artist.

Another patriotic ballad from the Biblical Songbook is found in 1 Samuel 18 (7) with this famous martial song being sung by women in joyful celebration of David’s victory over the Philistines and Goliath in the Valley of Elah: “Saul has slain his thousands but David has his tens of thousands.”

25 years later, in early l942, just weeks after the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, Frank Loesser wrote his wife, Lynn, quote “I have a title ‘Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition’ which is a quotation from a news story a few months ago — a sentence supposedly spoken by a brave army chaplain, Lt. Howell Forgy.” end of quote

Loesser, who was an ex-city editor for the New Rochelle News, wrote the lyrics and tune and it became a wartime hit three different times by three different artists, finally reaching #1 in l943. Here is the number one version performed by the Kay Kyser Orchestra.

(“Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” performed the Kay Kyser)

Songs like these helped keep American morale up during World War One and Two — as they expressed confidence in her fighting men, and in the providence of God.

 This is Bob Case wishing you a happy 4th of July  for “Singing in the Shower: The American Songbook and the Church.”



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