July 26, 2010
Singin' About Chicago
Frank Sinatra made it practically a city anthem, but "Chicago" (That Toddlin' Town) was actually written in 1922 by Fred Fisher. The German-born songwriter came to the United States in 1900 and he had his first big hit song in 1906 - "If the Man In the Moon Were a Coon." Ya, I'm not going to go there...
As you no doubt are aware, there have been dozens of songs about Chicago but a few of the early ones had some pretty interesting titles:
"The Burning of the Iroquois" (theater) 1904 - Composer: Thos. R. Confare, Lyricist: Morris S. Silver (bet this was a cheery tune)
"The Hat He Never Ate" (1899)- Composer: Ben Harney, Lyricist: Howard S. Taylor (said to be written as a campaign song for Carter Harrison)
"On the Midway, or the Jolly Bum, Bum" 1893 - Composer & Lyricist: Louis Ortenstein (one of many Columbian Exposition compositions, but what a "jolly bum" is I couldn't say)
O what music there will be in Chicago
From Yankee Doodle thro' to Handel's Largo.
The orchestras will play
And the brass bands too, they say,
For that great Columbian Fair at Chicago.
We'll hear such melodies with grandest chords and harmonies
When the singers gathered there shall raise their voices,
For the greatest jubilee that we ever yet did see,
And that is why America rejoices.
- "Are You Going to the Fair at Chicago" by C. Ormsbee Gregory, verse 3
For an informative discussion on the Music of the Columbian Exposition, see: "From Yankee Doodle Thro' To Handel's Largo Music at the World's Columbian Exposition" by David M. Guion, College Music Symposium, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring, 1984), pp. 81-96, Published by: College Music Society
And, for you sports fans, "The Glory of the Cubs" (1908) - Composer: Arthur Marshall, Lyricist: F.R. Sweirngen and a march, "Cubs on Parade" by H.R. Hempel. Neither seems to have been played much recently.
Chances are pretty slim that you'll hear the following little ditty singing the praises of Chicago at Lallapalooza, but it was a pretty popular song in the 1890s. The words and music were written by Harry Dacre, best known for "Daisy Bell" (a.k.a. "A Bicycle Built for Two")
Guess you can see by the cut of my jib,
I am a Yank and I mean to speak loud of it,
Just landed here from a smart little crib,
Chicago, my boys, and I reckon on I'm proud of it.
New York to Frisco
There isn't a spot
Containing such go ahead men
As we've got!
You Englishmen think you're a very cute lot
But you're not in the hunt with Chicago!
I guess the music added alot.
For more of "my kind of town", see:
List of songs about Chicago (Wikipedia)
Songs with a Reference to Chicago (Music List 4 You)
List of songs about Chicago (StateMaster Encyclopedia)
"Out of the Flames and Other Songs of the Great Fire"
"After the Ball"
"Chicago" New York Public Library Digital Gallery
"Glory of the Cubs" (Soho the Dog, "Holy mackerel")