Popular Music from World War I

Smile and Show Your Dimple

World War I ended on November 11, 1918 when Germany declared an armistice – that is a cessation of fighting prior to the signing of an official peace treaty.  The day that commemorated the end of the conflict was called Armistice Day until 1947 when the name was changed to Veteran’s Day in order to honor all veterans, not solely those who fought in World War I.  The change, by the way, was spearheaded by a World War II veteran from Birmingham, Alabama named Raymond Weeks.

I’ve decided to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I with a three hour retrospective of some of the music that was popular during the years of that conflict.  The war began in Europe in 1914; the United States entered the war in 1917; and it ended in 1918 when Germany was finally defeated.  In case you’re wondering, you won’t be listening to scratchy old recordings that are a century old.  Vocal music is predominant and the vocalists include Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Rosemary Clooney (George Clooney’s aunt), Doris Day and Nat King Cole.  The program will be broadcast as part of a weekly program called Music on the Sunny Side on WBRH (90.3 FM and at wbrh.org) on Sunday morning between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Central Standard Time.

About a month ago one of my listeners suggested that I do a segment on the popular music of “the war to end all wars,” and I was so intrigued when I researched the subject that it changed from a segment into an entire show.  I was surprised at how many songs from that period have remained popular – at least with people of a certain age.  I also found some novelty songs that I fell in love with – songs like “Fido Is a Hot Dog Now” (1914), “Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go with Friday on Saturday Night?” (1916), and “Would You Rather Be a Colonel with an Eagle on Your Shoulder or a Private with a Chicken on Your Knee?” (1918).  Another interesting find was an Irving Berlin song called “Smile and Show Your Dimple” (1917) which he reworked years later into one of his best-known songs of all time.  What did it become?  Tune in Sunday morning and find out.

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