"Over There" is a 1917 song written by George M. Cohan, that was popular with the United States military and public during both world wars. It is a patriotic song designed to galvanize American young men to enlist in the army and fight the "Hun". The song is best remembered for a line in its chorus: "The Yanks are coming."
It is thought that the song was written in 1917, the year that the United States entered World War I on the side of the Allies and began sending troops to Europe: it was first registered with the Library of Congress by publisher William Jerome on June 1 of that year. The song reflected Americans' expectations that the war would be short. According to Cohan it was inspired by a bugle call and was one of his few hits not written specifically for Broadway musicals.
The song was introduced to the public in the fall of 1917, when it was sung at a Red Cross benefit in New York City. It would later become the most popular song during the war, with over two million copies sold.
Notable early recordings include versions by the American Quartet (#1 for 9 weeks), Nora Bayes (#1 for 2 weeks), Enrico Caruso (#1 for 3 weeks), the Peerless Quartet (#1 for 3 weeks), Billy Murray, Arthur Fields and Charles King. According to Michael Duffy of FirstWorldWar.com, "Cohan later recalled that the words and music to the song came to him while travelling by train from New Rochelle to New York shortly after the U.S. had declared war against Germany in April 1917."
The sheet music was heavily reprinted and has variant covers. One of those editions was a "Popular edition."
As sung by early 20th century recording artist Billy Murray:
- Johnny, get your gun, get your gun, get your gun.
- Take it on the run, on the run, on the run.
- Hear them calling you and me,
- Every Son of Liberty.
- Hurry right away, no delay, go today.
- Make your Daddy glad to have had such a lad.
- Tell your sweetheart not to pine,
- To be proud her boy's in line.
- Johnny, get your gun, get your gun, get your gun.
- Johnny, show the "Hun" you're a son-of-a-gun.
- Hoist the flag and let her fly
- Yankee Doodle do or die.
- Pack your little kit, show your grit, do your bit.
- Yankee to the ranks from the towns and the tanks.
- Make your Mother proud of you
- And the old red-white-and-blue
- Over there, over there,
- Send the word, send the word over there
- That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming
- The drums rum-tumming everywhere.
- So prepare, say a prayer,
- Send the word, send the word to beware –
- We'll be over, we're coming over,
- And we won't come back till it's over, over there.
In popular culture
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- Since 2009 on an on-off basis, the price comparison site Gocompare.com used the melody of "Over There", but with different lyrics, as its advertising jingle, sung by company mascot Welsh tenor Gio Compario played by real-life Welsh tenor Wynne Evans.
- The American Outlaws utilized Over There as its anthem in the lead-up towards the 2010 and 2014 World Cup
- In January 2016, Donald Trump used a version of this song, titled "Freedom's Call" and performed by the USA Freedom Kids, during his campaign in the 2016 presidential election.
- The most famous of many film appearances is in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) starring James Cagney in his Oscar-winning performance. The way the film portrays it, Cohan is watching a military band parade by, and a segment of one of their songs catches his ear, a simple triad that he finds himself whistling. Late at night, he is seen slowly working out the complete new song on a piano, note by note. The next scene unveils the song, as Cohan (Cagney) and a woman dressed in uniform (Frances Langford, portraying Nora Bayes) sing it to a large and appreciative audience. The song is reprised at the very end of the film. As Cohan is leaving the White House grounds, a group of soldiers march past the now-aged Cohan, singing the song. Another bystander, also elderly, does a startled take as he finds himself standing next to the author of that song. Cohan (along with other citizens) begins to march alongside and in step with the soldiers. One of them (character actor Frank Faylen), not knowing who the old man is, teases him into joining the singing. The film irises-out on a closeup of Cohan (Cagney) singing the final line of the song's chorus.
- Cartoon films at the time used the song in WWII related shorts. The song is most noticeably heard in MGM's 1942 short, Blitz Wolf, as well as War Dogs and Yankee Doodle Mouse the following year.
- In Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), the chorus of the song is used to herald the arrival of American troops on the pier which serves as the symbolic setting in the film, with a line of lyrics changed to "We won't come back, we'll be buried over there."
- When Niles learns that Frasier is no longer frequenting the Fox & Whistle in "Where Every Bloke Knows Your Name", episode 10, season 5 of Frasier, he references the lyrics of "Over There" in his response: "I take it it's over over there."
- "The Yanks are Coming", the title of an episode (series 3, episode 25) in the popular BBC science fiction sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart, is derived from the above.
- In Season 2 Episode 20 of The Simpsons ("The War of the Simpsons") Grampa Simpson sings it in the shower, blissfully unaware of the mayhem just outside the bathroom.
- In Season 7 Episode 13 of Mad Men when Don attends a dinner with vets, they sing “The Yanks are Coming”.
- In Season 5 Episode 17 of The Golden Girls when Blanche goes in to get a pacemaker and Rose, Dorothy and Sophia sing it.
- In Season 5 Episode 17 of Boston Legal it is played in the scene before the opening, it is also heard in other places where Alan Shore and Denny Crane's Coast Guard Auxiliary involvement is highlighted.
- In Ken Burns' Documentary series Baseball a somber piano version is used to accompany tales of the effects of the Great War on professional baseball players.
- In Season 5 Episode 4 of Family Guy the song is performed by Vern and Johnny, two Vaudeville men.
- The title of John A. Lee's book The Yanks are Coming (1943) is a reference to the song
- The title of the anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun (1938) by Dalton Trumbo is an answer to the line 'Johnny get your gun' in the song.
References and notes
- Mondello, Bob (December 20, 2018). "George M. Cohan, 'The Man Who Created Broadway,' Was An Anthem Machine". American Anthem. NPR. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
- *Vogel, Frederick G. (1995). World War I Songs: A history of Popular American Patriotic Tunes, with Over 300 Complete Lyrics. McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers. ISBN 0-89950-952-5. OCLC 32241433., page 36.
- *Collins, Ace (2003). Songs Sung, Red, White, and Blue: The Stories Behind America's Best-Loved Patriotic Songs. HarperResource. ISBN 0060513047., page 138-145.
- *Smith, Kathleen E. R. (2003). God Bless America: Tin Pan Alley Goes to War. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2256-2. OCLC 32241433., page 36.
- *Pegler, Martin (2014). Soldier's Songs and Slang of the Great War. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4728-0929-2. OCLC 900344548., page 72.
- Duffy, Michael. "Vintage Audio – Over There", FirstWorldWar.com, August 22, 2009, accessed July 12, 2013
- "Over there". pritzkermilitary.org.
- *Collins, Ace (2003). Songs Sung, Red, White, and Blue: The Stories Behind America's Best-Loved Patriotic Songs. HarperResource. ISBN 0060513047., pages 138-145.
- "Johnny" is a very common English given name and is used to address any anonymous man or men.
- Now usually sung "Johnny on the run...".
- Now usually sung as "Like true heroes..."
- Now usually sung as "Soldiers..."
- Short for "tank town", meaning any town so small its primary purpose was to provide water for steam locomotives.
- Now usually sung as "And to liberty be true."
- "Trump's 'USA Freedom Kids' sing at rally". YouTube.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Nora Bayes recording July 13, 1917, via U.S. Library of Congress, National Jukebox
- Vintage Audio: Over There
- Rendition by Billy Murray and quartet
- Recording of Billy Murray singing "Over There" from 1917
- Library of Congress essay on recording on the National Recording Registry.
- Sheet music for "Over There", Leo Feist, Inc., 1917.
- Over There from Patriotic Melodies