"Goodbye, Mamma. I'm Off to Yokohama": The Office of War Information and Tin Pan Alley in World War II.
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The quest for the Great American War Song of World War II occupied the American music industry for most of the war years. But, to the amazement of the United States government's Office of War Information and the music industry, the songwriters of the era could not create a martial tune that had a lasting impact on the American public. Prior to World War II there had always been a song or songs readily identifiable with past conflicts. Following Pearl Harbor, Tin Pan Alley rushed to write the Great American War Song; however, to the bemusement of the music industry, the most popular songs continued to be romantic ballads, escapist tunes, or novelty songs. To remedy the situation, the federal government created the National Wartime Music Committee, an advisory group of the Domestic Radio Bureau of the Office of War Information, which outlined "proper" war songs, along with tips on how and what to write aimed at Tin Pan Alley composers. Simultaneously, the music business formed its own Music War Committee to promote war songs. Neither group succeeded. There were also numerous other influences on war song composition: the impact of "swing" music, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers's strike, the effect of changing technology, and comparisons with war songs from the First World War. The general thought was that World War II was so grim that there was not much to sing about. The most popular songs continued to be romantic ballads. This study concludes that Americans did not need a war song to convince them to support the war. The governments' fears of faltering morale did not materialize. The crusade for a "proper" war song was misguided from the beginning. A crucial factor was that the music business made huge profits during World War II selling sentimental ballads and love songs. To maintain this high level of income, publishers and recording companies catered to the main consumers of music, teenage girls, who had become the dominant factor in selecting the types of songs that made huge profits for the music industry.
Smith, Kathleen Ellen rahtz, ""Goodbye, Mamma. I'm Off to Yokohama": The Office of War Information and Tin Pan Alley in World War II." (1996). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 6217.