“The Yankee Doodle Boy”

4 July 2010

From Wikipedia:

George Michael Cohan (pronounced Coe-han; July 3, 1878–November 5, 1942), known professionally as George M. Cohan, was an American entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer and producer…

…Cohan was born in 1878 in Providence, Rhode Island, to Irish Catholic parents. A baptismal certificate (which gave the wrong first name for his mother) indicated that he was born on July 3, but Cohan and his family always insisted that George had been “born on the Fourth of July!”. George’s parents were traveling Vaudeville performers, and he joined them on stage while still an infant, first as a prop and then learning to dance and sing soon after he could walk and talk.

He was the fourth member of the family act called The Four Cohans, which included his father Jeremiah “Jere” (Keohane) Cohan (1848–1917), mother Helen “Nellie” Costigan Cohan (1854–1928), and sister Josephine “Josie” Cohan Niblo (1876–1916).

Although he started as a performer, he also began writing original skits and songs for the family act in both vaudeville and minstrel shows while in his teens. Soon he was writing professionally, selling his first songs to a national publisher in 1893. Cohan had his first big Broadway hit in 1904 with the show Little Johnny Jones, which introduced his tunes “Give My Regards to Broadway” and “The Yankee Doodle Boy”.

Cohan became one of the leading Tin Pan Alley songwriters, publishing upwards of 300 original songs, noted for their catchy melodies and clever lyrics. His other major hit songs included “You’re a Grand Old Flag”, “Forty-five Minutes from Broadway”, “Mary Is a Grand Old Name”, “The Warmest Baby In The Bunch”, “Life’s A Funny Proposition After All”, “I Want to Hear a Yankee Doodle Tune”, “You Won’t Do Any Business If You Haven’t Got A Band”, “The Small Town Gal”, “I’m Mighty Glad I’m Living, That’s All”, “That Haunting Melody”, and the popular World War I song, “Over There”

…On July 3, 2009, a bronze bust of Cohan was unveiled at the corner of Wickenden and Governor Streets in the Fox Point neighborhood in Providence, a few blocks from where the cold-water flat he was born in once stood. The inscription under the sculpture, by artist Robert Shure, reads (in part): “Son of Providence/Father of the Broadway Musical Comedy”. The city renamed the corner the George M. Cohan Plaza. The unveiling ceremony also included the presentation of a planned annual George M. Cohan Award for Excellence in Art & Culture. The first award went to Curt Columbus, the artistic director of Trinity Repertory Company, a Tony award-winning theater group which performs in the former Majestic Theater building in Providence where Cohan once performed with his family…

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