American music during World War II

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American music during World War II was considered to be popular music that was enjoyed during the late 1930s (the end of the Great Depression) through the mid-1940s (through the end of World War II).

Radio and accessibility

By 1940, 80% of American households would own a radio;[1] making American music easier to listen to as opposed to the World War I era. Therefore, popular songs from the World War II era were far more accessible to the civilians and soldiers alike, and thus were better able to build morale than before.

Popular songs

Unlike many World War I songs, many World War II songs focused more on romance and strength instead of propaganda, morale, and patriotism.[2] Songs that were overly patriotic or militaristic were often rejected by the public.[3]

During World War II, American music helped to inspire servicemen, people working in the war industries, homemakers and schoolchildren alike.

Popular singers of the era included Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, the Andrews Sisters and Bing Crosby.[4] Notable wartime radio songs were Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,[5] Shoo Shoo Baby, I'm Making Believe, I'll Be Seeing You, and I'll Be Home for Christmas.[1]

Songs that ridiculed the Axis Powers were also popular. These songs include We'll Knock the Japs Right into the Laps of the Nazis, Yankee Doodle Ain't Doodlin' Now, You're a Sap, Mr. Jap, and Oliver Wallace's song Der Fuehrer's Face, popularly recorded by Spike Jones, itself inspiring a 1943 Walt Disney cartoon starring Donald Duck.[3] A notable trend with songs that targeted the Axis powers was that for the songs directed towards Europe, the songs focused on Hitler and the Nazis as opposed to the civilians. On the other hand, songs that were directed towards the Pacific showed blatant racism, hate, anger, and revenge following the Pearl Harbor attack.[6]

Swing music

Swing music was a notable example of wartime radio music. Even Nazi Germany fielded some swing music bands despite Hitler's objections to "decadent Western music.[7]" After the end of World War II, this music escalated until the paranoia of the Cold War made this kind of music irrelevant after the Soviet menace (under Joseph Stalin) replaced the Nazi menace (under Adolf Hitler). Lawrence Welk would later play this kind of music on The Lawrence Welk Show. Jazz music would also become part of the "cultural war" that raged alongside the actual fighting of World War II.[1] Having its roots in African-American music, the racist Nazi regime had declared it to be "inhuman music" and banned it in all of occupied Europe.[1] The local musicians of Paris, France chose to play jazz music in French rather than in English as a loophole in the Nazi jazz music ban.[1] Rebellious German kids would meet in secret locations and listen to Allied music stations to hear jazz music behind the Gestapo's metaphorical back.[1] This generation of German kids saw jazz music as a "religion worth fighting for.[1]"


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "Pop Culture Goes to War in the 1940s". Living History Farm. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Smith, Kathleen E.R. (2003). God Bless America: Tin Pan Alley Goes to War. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky. p. 174. ISBN 0-8131-2256-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Young, William H.; Young, Nancy K. (2008). Music of the World War II Era. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. xiii. ISBN 0-313-33891-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Jones, John Bush. The Songs that Fought the War: Popular Music and the Home Front, 1939–1945. Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England. p. 2. ISBN 1-58465-443-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Boogie Woogie Reveille". Billboard. Billboard (Vol 55 No. 14). 1943-04-03. Retrieved 2010-03-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Young, William H.; Young, Nancy K. (2008). Music of the World War II Era. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 6. ISBN 0-313-33891-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. The Dance Band Era. Albert McCarthy. Chilton Book Company. 1971. page 140. ISBN 0-8019-5681-1

Further reading

  • Bell, David H. ; Carnelia, Craig ; Terkel, Studs. The good war : a musical collage of World War II. New York : Theatrical Rights, [2008]. OCLC 399720803.
  • Bloomfield, Gary L. ; Shain, Stacie L. ; Davidson, Arlen C. Duty, honor, applause : America's entertainers in World War II. Guilford, Conn. : Lyon's Press, 2004. ISBN 1-59228-550-3. OCLC 57168649.
  • Bolden, Tonya. Take-off! : American all-girl bands during WW II. New York : Knopf, 2007. ISBN 0-375-82797-8. OCLC 70836679.
  • Braverman, Jordan. To hasten the homecoming : how Americans fought World War II through the media. Lanham, Md. : Madison Books, 1996. ISBN 1-56833-047-2. OCLC 32591261.
  • Ciment, James ; Russell, Thaddeus. The home front encyclopedia : United States, Britain, and Canada in World Wars I and II. Santa Barbara, Calif. : ABC-CLIO, 2007. ISBN 1-57607-875-2. OCLC 80728071.
  • Erenberg, Lewis A.; Hirsch, Susan E. The war in American culture : society and consciousness during World War II. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1996. ISBN 0-226-21511-3. OCLC 32894116.
  • Fauser, Annegret. Sounds of war : music in the United States during World War II. New York : Oxford University Press, [2013]. ISBN 0-19-994803-8. OCLC 819383019.
  • Heide, Robert ; Gilman, John. Home front America : popular culture of the World War II era. San Francisco : Chronicle Books, 1995. ISBN 0-8118-0927-7. OCLC 31207708.
  • Jones, John Bush. The songs that fought the war : popular music and the home front, 1939–1945. Waltham, Mass. : Brandeis University Press, 2006. ISBN 1-58465-443-0. OCLC 69028073.
  • Krummel, Donald William. Resources of American music history : a directory of source materials from Colonial times to World War II. Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 1981. ISBN 0-252-00828-6. OCLC 6304409.
  • Lee, Vera. The black and white of American popular music : from slavery to World War II. Rochester, Vt. : Schenkman Books, 2007. ISBN 0-87047-077-9. OCLC 78774666.
  • Recorded Anthology of American Music, Inc. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition : Songs of World Wars I & II. Recorded Anthology of American Music, 1977. OCLC 221633326.
  • Root, Deane L. Voices across time : American history through music. [Pittsburgh] : Center for American Music, University of Pittsburgh, 2004. OCLC 71030740.
  • Sforza, John. Swing it! : the Andrews Sisters story. Lexington, Ky. : University Press of Kentucky, 2000. ISBN 0-8131-2136-1. OCLC 40755241.
  • Sullivan, Jill M. Bands of sisters : U.S. women's military bands during World War II. Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 2011. ISBN 0-8108-8162-4. OCLC 720635040.
  • Young, William H. ; Young, Nancy K. Music of the World War II era. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2008. ISBN 0-313-08427-0. OCLC 232574299.
  • Young, William ; Young, Nancy K. World War II and the postwar years in America : a historical and cultural encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, Calif. : ABC-CLIO, 2010. ISBN 0-313-35653-X. OCLC 720585980.

External links