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July 03

George Cohan

Cohan’s statue stands in the heart of Times Square in New York City, surrounded by the splashy billboards of today’s musicals.

Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images

1878: Yankee Doodle Cohan
George Cohan is born in Providence, Rhode Island
Though documents tell us otherwise, George Cohan insisted all his life that he was actually born on the Fourth of July—better to tie into the spirited patriotic songs he wrote like “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Over There,” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”

No matter what day he was really born, Cohan’s singing and dancing legacy began at a young age when he and his family cavorted around the nation on the vaudeville circuit. In his teens, he was churning out musical comedies in which music and dance advanced the plot in some way—a new way of writing a play and a source of many of his Tin Pan Alley hits.

Few performers on the Broadway stage made a greater mark than Cohan on the history of musical comedy.
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