This Day in History
John Philip Sousa


On a day like this in 1898…

It is typical of American culture that the man who composed “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and came to represent American music to much of the world should have been born of a Portuguese father and a Bavarian mother. At the age of thirteen, John Philip Sousa enlisted in the Marine Band, and thereafter the whole of his long life was devoted chiefly to giving musical respectability to band music. He was, indeed to band music what Stephen Foster had been to Negro folk music and Johann Strauss had been to the waltz. As a young man, Sousa played violin in Jacques Offenbach’s orchestra at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. In 1880 he returned to his first love - the Marine Band. As Director, he remade the band in his own image and composed scores of marching tunes for it - including “Semper Fidelis,” the official song of the Marine Corps. A few years later Sousa organized his own band, which rapidly became the most popular in the country, and in other countries as well, for it visited most major European cities.

Altogether Sousa composed over one hundred marching songs (as well as operettas and novels.) Of these, “The Stars and Stripes Forever” was deservedly the most popular. He tells us in his autobiography how he came to compose it. Called back to America from Italy, he set sail from England:

On board the steamer, as I walked up and down the deck, back and forth, a mental band was playing the “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Day after day it persisted. I wrote it on Christmas Day, 1896.
When it was played in Philadelphia the next spring, a music critic said prophetically that “it is stirring enough to rouse the American eagle from his crag and set him to shriek exultantly while he hurls his arrows at the aurora borealis.” It was, indeed, and it came just in time to stir the emotions and the passions inflamed by the 1898 war with Spain. One hundred years later, it remains one of the most popular of all American marching songs.




May's Archived Features:

Sunday May 1, 2022
Monday May 2, 2022
Tuesday May 3, 2022
Wednesday May 4, 2022
Thursday May 5, 2022
Friday May 6, 2022
Saturday May 7, 2022
Sunday May 8, 2022
Monday May 9, 2022
Tuesday May 10, 2022
Wednesday May 11, 2022
Thursday May 12, 2022
Friday May 13, 2022
Saturday May 14, 2022
Sunday May 15, 2022
Monday May 16, 2022
Tuesday May 17, 2022
Wednesday May 18, 2022
Thursday May 19, 2022
Friday May 20, 2022
Saturday May 21, 2022
Sunday May 22, 2022
Monday May 23, 2022
Tuesday May 24, 2022
Wednesday May 25, 2022
Thursday May 26, 2022
Friday May 27, 2022

 

 

 
All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.