George M. Cohan

You’re A Grand Old Flag



Something for the weekend.  You’re A Grand Old Flag sung by James Cagney in the film biopic of George M. Cohan Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942).  Cohan wrote the song in 1906 after an encounter with a Union veteran of Gettysburg who was carrying a torn American battle flag.  The old soldier smiled at Cohan and said the flag was “A grand old rag!”


I cannot have a post that mentions the film Yankee Doodle Dandy without showing the scene of Cagney as Cohan tap dancing down the White House steps.  Cagney did the scene completely impromptu. Continue reading

Glenn Miller’s Over There

America means freedom and there’s no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music.

Glenn Miller

Something for the weekend.  Glenn Miller and the Army Air Corps Band give a very lively version of James M. Cohan’s Over There.  The rendition of the song is made poignant by our knowledge that Major Glenn Miller would never come back from Over There, dying on December 15, 1944 when the plane he was flying in was lost over the English Channel.  Miller, too old to be drafted at 38, was rich and famous as a band leader in 1942 and could have sat out the War in safety and comfort without reproach.  However, Miller was above all a patriot.  He first tried to join the Navy and was turned down.  He then joined the Army Air Corps, commissioned as a Captain, and was placed in command of the Army Air Corps Band.  His goal was to present music that the troops would enjoy, frequently to the dismay of senior officers who usually had little love for Big Band era music.  Miller and his Band helped raise the morale of American troops and civilians alike, not an easy task in a War as bloody as World War II, especially among Army Air Corps troops in Europe with their high casualties.  May his soul rest in peace. Continue reading

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