Something for the weekend: When Johnny Comes Marching Home. One hundred and fifty years ago as soldiers North and South were returning to their homes this song was being played. Written by composer Patrick Gilmore, bandmaster of the 24th Massachusetts in 1863 to comfort his sister who was praying for her fiancée to return safe from the War, it proved immensely popular both North and South with the troops and was sung and played endlessly by them with varied lyrics, all centered upon their dearest hope: to go home after what they usually called this cruel War was over. Gilmore set the tune to another popular song of the day: Johnny Fill Up the Bowl.
The song retained its popularity in subsequent American wars as demonstrated by these renditions of the song by Glenn Miller and the Andrew Sisters:
America means freedom and there’s no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music.
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.