Revolutionary War


By 1776, the American colonists had established a folk heritage of their own. A number of native composers of both hymns and secular music had achieved prominence, and songs of liberty--prototypes for later patriotic ballads--had been widely disseminated on broadsides and in radical newspapers. By the end of the 18th century, all Americans were singing about the sons of Columbia who had secured the nation's independence.

The era of the Declaration of Independence brought songs such as "War Song," "Independence" and "The Times and the Jerseys." George Washington was the subject of many songs, including "Washington's March At the Battle of Trenton" and "The President's March." The popularity of the patriotic march continued through the War of 1812. "Hail, Columbia" written before the war with France, and the poem later titled "The Star Spangled Banner" became national anthems for the newly independent country.

Despite the dominance of the patriotic march, other musical styles began to surface along with the diversifying American culture. American folk music was introduced with "Springfield Mountain." Humor and nonsensical activities became the focus of other popular songs. For the first time, stories and parodies on fashions, everyday habits and home life were set to music.

Negro songs were introduced in the late 1700s with "I Sold A Guiltless Negro" (also known as "The Negro Boy"). Also popular was "The Gay Negro Boy," which featured the first use of banjo accompaniment. Some consider these songs to be the first suggestion of the black face minstrel style that would soon popularize thousands of songs.

Perhaps the greatest song of the post-revolutionary era was "Home, Sweet Home," with words by John Howard Payne and music by Sir Henry Bishop. This song, often described as the greatest home song of all times, showed the patterns and formulas of popular songwriting that would remain fairly consistent right up to modern times: simplicity of melody, balance between text and tune, and sameness of rhythm.