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”, “Where Were You, Where Was I?”, “The Song and Dance Man”, “Billie” and the patriotic theme song and 2002 Towering Song Award winner, “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”
The more than 40 musical dramas he wrote, produced, directed and starred in on Broadway include The Governor’s Son, Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway, Little Johnny, George Washington, Jr., The Honeymooners, The Yankee Prince, The Little Millionaire, Hello, Broadway, The Talk of New York, Fifty Miles From Boston, The American Idea, The Man Who Owns Broadway, The Cohan Revue (1916, 1918), The Royal Vagabond, The Merry Malones, Little Nellie Kelly, The Rise of Rosie O’Reilly, Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford, Seven Keys to Baldpate, The Miracle Man, Hit the Trail Hailday, Broadway Jones, A Prince There Was, The Song and Dance Man, American Born, Gambling, Dear Old Darling, The Return of the Vagabond, The Tavern, Elmer the Great, The O’Brien Girl, Ah, Wilderness! and I’d Rather Be Right.
Cohan was awarded Congressional Medal’s of Honor for his patriotic songs and in the 1950’s his life was documented in the film Yankee Doodle Dandy.
George M. Cohan died in New York City on November 5, 1942. On September 11, 1959, Oscar Hammerstein II presented an eight-foot high, bronze statue of Cohan in the heart of Times Square on Broadway.