by Alex Cosper (11/18/12)
Educational songs are known to help people memorize lyrics better. The clever nature of songwriting can add a dimension of fun that just isn't there without music. Songs about U.S. history can help people learn the main themes behind historical events. A song doesn't have to read like a chronology of events. It can help paint the overall picture about why something stands out in history.
In 2012 there is still a major shortage of songs that deal with historical events. Pop music history hasn't really delivered much educational music. There have been a few events, though, that are remembered in popular songs such as "The Battle of New Orleans" by Johnny Horton and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot. Songs about U.S. history can be used as part of a history project.
Part of the problem with songs about history is that so much of history is tainted with violence. It's hard to talk about how the United States or any other nation came into being without mentioning the unpleasant topic of war. The History Channel has built an audience on war stories. History books are flooded with war stories. One of the biggest hit songs to be categorized as history music is "Battle of New Orleans" by Johnny Horton. It was a U.S. number one hit in 1959 and told an upbeat story of how Colonel Andrew Jackson defeated the British in 1814.
There really haven't been too many other hits dealing directly with historical events. An exception was an earlier chart-topper called "The Ballad of Davy Crockett." It was a number one hit in 1955 by Bill Hayes and was covered by several artists including Tennessee Ernie Ford, Walter Schumann and ultimately the star of the TV series "Davy Crockett," Fess Parker. Known as "King of the Wild Frontier" in the 1800s, Crockett was a U.S. Congressman from Tennessee and a soldier who died in the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. Another war song that became a huge hit was "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" by The Andrews Sisters during World War II.
Other popular songs about history have paid tribute to leaders such as Dion's "Abraham, Martin and John," saluting Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" was a number one song in 1977 that paid tribute to jazz musician Duke Ellington. There are actually plenty of other famous people to sing about that have more to do with peace than violence, such as inventors and pioneers who helped modernize the world.
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