Music and Radio during the Second World War

by Noam Brauner

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Music and Radio during the Second World War

  • Joined Oct 2020
  • Published Books 1

While thinking of what to make my book about, I was reminded of something my grandfather told me offhandedly a few years back. My grandfather was born in New York in 1932 and had asked me to make him a playlist of all his favorite songs. While adding the songs, he spoke about the music of his childhood, which was during the second world war. Many of the songs he requested came from that period. He spoke of the importance that the songs played on the radio carried and mentioned a few military songs that were often played to boost morale.


In this book, I will talk about the roles of music and the radio played during that war while giving examples and a better understating of the state the American people were in.



Patriotism and propaganda:

After the first world war, the American people were tired of the propaganda played on the radio. So, during the second world war, the American government put a lot of effort into explaining their actions to the people and tried to justify their propaganda. President Roosevelt issued an executive order establishing the office of Coordination of Commercial and Cultural Relations to promote the use of government/private radio.



Throughout the war, the attack on Pearl Harbor was frequently used in American propaganda. Direct wartime programming began shortly after the United States entered into the war and the American people were able to listen to the sounds of the battlefield as they were happening.


And while those were broadcasted on the radio, people were listening to and singing along to patriotic songs such as songs against the Nazis and the Japanese. Military songs were played frequently as well.





While talking to my grandfather and asking him for more songs he remembered from that time, he started singing this song:




Another thing that changed on the radio, were the topics of the songs playing. Songs about missing loved ones overseas and supporting the troops became popular. During the years of the war, female singers like Frances Langford and Dinah Shore became more prominent as they interpreted women’s concerns. Lyrics reflecting both male and female perspectives often dealt with separation and loneliness.


You’d be so nice to come home to
You’d be so nice by the fire
While the breeze on high sang a lullaby
You’d be all that I could desire
Under stars chilled by the winter
Under an August moon burning above
You’d be so nice, you’d be paradise
To come home to and love
Under stars…


Jazz music provided comfort for families at home and soldiers abroad. Many musicians were drafted into the military and took their music with them. Some of them led military jazz bands that traveled the world to boost the morale of troops, Glenn Miller was one of them.



Some say that the music composed during the 1940s was unlike any other time of music because of its emphasis on making the listener feel like they are part of the war or if they are somewhere else.

A good example is white Christmas by bing Crosby, this song has often been noted that the mix of melancholy, with comforting images of home, resonated strongly with listeners. A few weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, The Armed Forces Network, an American radio station, broadcasted by the army in London, was flooded with requests for the song.



It’s very interesting to notice the roles of music during war times.


and in this instance, the way music was affected by and used as a tool by the events happening in the world.

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