World War II in Song
The Knott’s record collection contains several dozen 78s from the war years. As one can guess, many are dance tunes. George Black’s Black Vanities opened in the spring of 1941 in London’s West End. Reportedly bets were placed each evening on which comic would be on stage when the air raids began. In the revue, the song He Wears a Pair of Silver Wings acknowledges the debt owed to the RAF. Here it is performed by Kay Kaiser:
Eric Maschwitz, the composer of this song, also wrote the war time torch songs These Foolish Things and A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square.
On our side of the pond, close to ten million men were serving by the end of 1943 and their return was already being anticipated. On this track Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters do their part to raise spirits on the home front:
They also anticipated the fall of Berlin. At the time it was only natural to expected that American GIs would be there.
These songs have now been overshadowed by the big band dance music of the era. Their staying power has been diminished by their topically, but they reveal a view from the home front now being lost as the last of the Greatest Generation passes.
Kay Kaiser (1942)
He Wears a Pair of Silver Wings
Bing Crosby (1943)
B: The Victory Polka
Bing Crosby (1944)
B: Hot Time in the Old Town of Berlin