Within days of Japan’s December 7, 1941 attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, a diverse, often contentious, and isolationist-leaning nation still in the depths of the Great Depression came together in united purpose and finally entered the global war that had at that point been raging around it for almost two years. The singularity, universality and ultimate effectiveness of that resolve is legendary, as was its especial spirit. Certainly, there was a degree of outrage at the enemy, and of patriotic fervor. But what stood out among the American people during those 4 years of war was a national spirit in the face of adversity that was unusual, before or since, in its blend of quiet determination, good will, and hope.
Two and half weeks after the attack, on Christmas Day 1941, Bing Crosby introduced a new song to his Kraft Music Hall radio audiences which captured that national spirit extraordinarily well and it became an instant a sustained hit. Poet and author Carl Sandburg, writing about the song in his Chicago Times column a year later, expressed it, perhaps, best of all:
"We have learned to be a little sad and a little lonesome without being sickly about it. This feeling is caught in the song of a thousand juke boxes and the tune whistled in streets and homes. “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” When we sing that, we don’t hate anybody. And there are things we love that we’re going to have sometime if the breaks are not too bad against us. Way down under this latest hit of his, Irving Berlin catches us where we love peace."
The 31st annual Oregon Festival of American Music celebrates the role that popular entertainment played during World War II in capturing and nurturing this spirit. That effort was massive, complex, and markedly well-organized as individual entertainers, the entertainment industry, and the government worked together to marshal the resolve and bolster the morale of our armed forces throughout the world and of the folks back home.
This August 2-12, Festival Music Director Chuck Redd and company pay tribute to those exceptional years. Please join us!