1915 Song "I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier"
By Marshall Jose
WW1 pacifism and piano rolls
As I continue to scan piano rolls, I occasionally encounter rolls
which touch on the events of their day. One recent encounter was with
Vocalstyle #8293, "I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier," written in
1915 to express the American isolationism current at the time. By then,
there were plenty of immigrants in the US for whom citizenship meant
(in part) freedom from the entanglements of "Old Europe", such as
getting drawn into some distant power's war.
The tune arrived with immediate controversy in popular US culture; see
for more information. No less than Teddy Roosevelt had harsh words to
say about those who agreed with the lyrics. The media outlets then
were largely mouthpieces for large organizations who hoped to influence
public policy and sentiment (a phenomenon we occasionally see in our
present day), and the song quickly became a lightning rod for dispute.
But I was most struck by the roll's poor quality. I've scanned quite
a few Vocalstyle rolls, and until now every one of them was punched
with careful attention to quality. But this roll had missing punches,
irregular punches, and spurious punches which were clearly not supposed
to be part of the tune. It was very much as if the punch operator had
deliberately interfered with the reproduction of the master.
While I have no other evidence to point to, I can easily imagine some
opinionated roll punch operator spoiling a batch of rolls purely out of
petty spite. I've uploaded the resultant MIDI file with this post so
curious readers can listen to it.
[ The song was nonetheless a big hit in the United States. See
[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Bryan -- Robbie
(Message sent Wed 16 Jul 2014, 12:04:36 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)