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George M. Cohan

A composer who worked in musical comedy

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He was America's first true superstar!

  • Jul 5, 2009
Rating:
+5
George M. Cohan could do it all!  Incredible as it may seem Cohan made his debut on the stage at the ripe old age of three months when he was used as a prop!  Along with his parents and sister Josie, George was part of a vaudeville act known as the Four Cohans.  Yes, show business was in George M. Cohan's blood from a very early age.  From these humble beginnings George would go on to a storied career as an internationally renowned entertainer, composer, playwright, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer, director and producer.   Because he was so doggone versatile, George was able to envision and help to create an art form that no one else had ever really done before--the musical comedy.  In 1903, George M. Cohan's "Little Johnny Jones" opened on Broadway featuring  the venerable tune "Give My Regards to Broadway."  It was a huge success!   Over the next 16 years hardly a year would pass without a least one (and usually several) George M. Cohan musicals playing on Broadway.  In fact, in the years leading up to World War I George M. Cohan would come to be known as "the man who owned Broadway".   In addition to all of his other accomplishments Cohan was also a charter member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Producers (ASCAP)  a non-profit performance rights organization  that protects its members' musical copyrights. 

Today, more than six decades after his passing, the music of George M. Cohan remains an important part of the social fabric of our nation.  On patriotic national holidays such as Independence Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day such venerable Cohan tunes as "You're A Grand Old Flag", "Over There" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy" can be heard in band concerts in small town America as well as in spectacular parades in many of our major cities.  In addition, many of his plays are still performed by high school, college and local theater ensembles.   Cohan remains the only individual to have a statue erected in his honor on Broadway.  On July 3, 2009 the people of his hometown of Providence, R.I. honored their famous native son with "George M. Cohan Day".   The festivities included the unveiling of a sculpture designed by internationally known sculptor Robert Shure.  At the same time,  the City of Providence renamed the area where the sculpture will stand "George M. Cohan Plaza".   The ceremony concluded with two students from Rhode Island College performing a medley of Cohan's music.  It was a most fitting tribute to the man and his music.  My wife and I were in attendance and had a fabulous time.

America at the beginning of the 21st Century is certainly a far different place than the nation Mr. Cohan knew all those many decades ago.  Today we celebrate the great diversity of our nation and rightfully so.  But I am afraid that we have been much too quick to discard and dismiss a good deal of our nation's history.  There should be room for it all.  George M. Cohan remains an important figure in the history of the arts in our nation.    Let us never forget him!  
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About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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About this musician

Wiki

George Michael Cohen was born in Providence, Rhode Island on July 4, 1878. Cohan, the composer of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and America’s original song-and-dance man made his first professional appearance at the age of 9 in Little Georgie, as a member of the famous vaudeville company The Four Cohan’s (with sister Josephine and their parents).

In 1904 he produced his first successful musical play Little Johnny Jones, in which he played the character The Yankee Doodle Boy. As a songwriter, he was a charter member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). His popular song catalog includes the already mentioned “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, “Venus, My Shining Love”, “I Guess I’ll Have to Telegraph My Baby”, “The Yankee Doodle Boy”, “My Musical Comedy Maid”, “Revolutionary Rag”, “Give My Regards to Broadway”, “You Remind Me of My Mother”, “Life’s a Funny Proposition After All”, “Mary’s a Grand Old Name”, “So Long, Mary”, “Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway”, “I Was Born in Virginia”, “Harrigan”, “Over There” (the song of World War I which earned Cohan the Congressional Medal of Honor), “In the Kingdom of Our Own”, “Nellie Kelly, I Love You”, “When June Comes Along With a Song”, “Molly Malone”, ...

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Details

Birth Date: July 3, 1878
Birth Place: Providence, Rhode Island

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