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).


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.

One notable example of a wartime radio song was the iconic World War II song Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. An article published in Stars & Stripes, as well as Billboard Magazine and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, during WWII credited Clarence Zylman of Muskegon, Michigan, as the original Boogie Woogie Bugler.[2] The lyrics in the song agreed with several aspects of Zylman's life.[3] Drafted at age 38, Clarence had been performing for 20 years, beginning with radio stations in Chicago and moving on to several big bands, most recently, the Tommy Tucker Orchestra.[3] He brought his playing style to England where he was a company bugler, eventually being transferred to an army band.[3]

Other popular songs played during World War II were: Shoo Shoo Baby, I'm Making Believe, I'll Be Seeing You, and I'll Be Home for Christmas.[1]

Swing music was also another notable example of wartime radio music. Even Nazi Germany fielded some swing music bands despite Hitler's objections to "decadent Western music.[4]" 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. ^ a b c d e f g "Pop Culture Goes to War in the 1940s". Living History Farm. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-08. 
  2. ^ "Boogie Woogie Reveille". Billboard (Billboard) (Vol 55 No. 14). 1943-04-03. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  3. ^ a b c "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy lyrics". Gunther Anderson. Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  4. ^ The Dance Band Era. Albert McCarthy. Chilton Book Company. 1971. page 140. ISBN 0-8019-5681-1

Further Reading[edit]

  • 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 1-592-28550-3. 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 1-568-33047-2. 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 1-576-07875-2. 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 0-199-94803-8. OCLC 819383019.
  • Heide, Robert ; Gilman, John. Home front America : popular culture of the World War II era. San Francisco : Chronicle Books, 1995. ISBN 0-811-80927-7. 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 1-584-65443-0. 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 0-870-47077-9. 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 0-813-12136-1. OCLC 40755241.
  • Sullivan, Jill M. Bands of sisters : U.S. women's military bands during World War II. Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 2011. ISBN 0-810-88162-4. 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.

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