“I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy” – A Song Of American History


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The song “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy” was written in the early 1900′s by a man named George M. Cohan. Cohan wrote the song for the Broadway musical Little Johnny Jones. The musical opened in 1904 at the Liberty Theater. Both the show and the song were immediate hits.

The play was written to reflect the life of a American jockey. In the play the jockey is referred to as Johnny Jones. However, his true life name was Tod Sloan. Sloan rode a horse named Yankee Doodle in the English Derby. The pair faced many trials.

Song write Cohan was famous for adding small bits from other popular songs. He followed his borrowing tradition in “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy”. One verse contains the lyrics “Oh, say can you see”, which was taken from the Star Spangled Banner.

The song made significant reference to the civil war terms of Yankee for the North, and Dixie for the south. This is a part of American history which was still fresh at the time of the tunes creation. This was another aspect which gained the song such quick popularity.

“I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy” may have began its start in a Broadway musical. However, the songs fame certainly did not end there. In 1942 James Cagney performed the song in the film Yankee Doodle Dandy. Again, this patriotic song was a huge crowd pleaser.

In 1977 Paul Jabara released a disco version of Yankee Doodle Dandy. The song was part of his album release “Shut Out” & 1983 “Greatest Hits & Misses”. These were produced by Casablanca Records.

Even names as great as Bob Dylan are known for their appreciation of this American Folk Song. In 2009 Dylan opened a concert at Coveleski Stadium in South Bend, Indiana with his own version of “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy”. Fans went wild over this American classic with a Dylan twist.

As the years have passed “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy” has never faded in fame. The song is treasured as much today as it was over 100 years ago. This is a popular 4th of July song. Many people use it to symbolize American history and freedom.

For a wonderful course in playing patriotic songs on the piano, click here

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