The Story Behind the Song

Sometimes history can come across as a bunch of boring dates or a list of dead guys. That’s too bad. Because history is packed with surprising stories of people doing amazing, brave, as well pretty silly things—in other words, people just like people today!

History is also full of music. Songs from the past are like recordings from long ago. They give us a sense of what our parents, grandparents, and extra-old ancestors feared, hoped for, and celebrated.

Every song has a story behind why it was written. The ones here touch on important moments in U.S. history. But there are dozens of others worth exploring. Can’t find your favorite? What better reason do you need to start your own research?

As you read about these songs from the past, keep a couple questions in the back of your mind: What songs being created today will tell your story to your kids and grandkids? And what story will your songs tell?

The Story Behind The Song
In this story, find out how a song helped steel the courage of African Americans as they struggled for civil rights
The Story Behind The Song
“Yankee Doodle” may be a popular kids’ tune today, but it got its start as a song of war.
The Story Behind The Song
In this story, find out how a captured poet penned the song that became the country’s national anthem
The Story Behind The Song
This hymn helped inspire the North in its fight to reunite the country and free African-American slaves
The Story Behind The Song
After the U.S. entered World War II, this brass and percussion piece sounded the call to service and sacrifice.
The Story Behind The Song
Humbled by the Great Depression, this song gave voice to Americans' fears and feelings of loss
The Story Behind The Song
In 1938, composer Irving Berlin dusted off an old piece of music to create a new national hit
The Story Behind The Song
Folk singer Woody Guthrie celebrates America’s bounty and protests that not all Americans were getting their fair share
The Story Behind The Song
This article gives you the stories behind the words—“From the Halls of Montezuma, To the shores of Tripoli”

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