I have a great-grandfather who served in the army. He died years before I was born, but some stories about his time in the service have been passed down to me. He was in France 100 years ago today and probably felt immense relief that it was over coupled with sadness over the deaths of the soldiers he befriended.
I know quite a lot about the music from the 1910's, so I'll share some interesting American songs from World War I.
"Joan of Arc" sung by Willie Weston in May 1917.https://archive.org/details/78_joan-of-arc_willie-weston-bryan-weston-wells_gbia0013578b
This song represents an unusual aspect of American support for entry in World War I - sympathy for France's plight. There has been a historic appreciation for France because they gave important help to us in the War for Independence. Since the fighting in Europe posed no threat to us across the Atlantic, the threat it posed to France was used to drum up sympathy. The singer, Willie Weston was a popular vaudeville performer who came from an English theatrical performing family that immigrated here when he was a child. He frequently participated in entertainment shows at rallies to sell war bonds to help finance the war.
"For Your Country and My Country" sung by Willie Weston in May 1917.https://archive.org/details/78_for-your-country-and-my-country_willie-weston-irving-berlin_gbia0013578a
Another recording by Weston. This songs hints towards a simmering problem the U.S. had in recruiting soldiers. We had a huge population of immigrants and children of immigrants from Germany and Austria-Hungary who didn't want to fight against those nations, and they had to be convinced to fight. Check out these lines:
"America has opened up her heart.
And now she asks from every nation
It makes no difference now from where you came.
We are all the same."
"Over There" sung by Nora Bayes in July 1917.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGLwJGv1fAQ
This is the most well-remembered American song from World War I. Nora Bayes was a well-known singer who performed many shows for soldiers. This song was written by George M. Cohan. He was enormously popular as an actor, songwriter, and playwright and arguably played the most important part in shaping the American musical. His songs written in support of the war were sung frequently.
"I Didn't Raise My Boy to be a Soldier" sung by the Peerless Quartet in January 1915.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C2qOAgMCl4
The Peerless Quartet was a vocal Quartet employed by Columbia Records. This is one of several "protest songs" written from 1914-1916 before the U.S. entered the war. The war felt distant to Americans in those early years and most supported isolationism. The song's poignant lyrics describe the grief and anger of a mother who doesn't want her son to go to war.
"What victory can cheer a mother's heart
when she looks at her blighted home?
What victory can bring her back
all she cared to call her own?"