After John J. Pershing rose to international prominence as commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI, many musical compositions bearing Pershing’s name flooded the American marketplace. Pershing songs were sold as sheet music for piano, phonograph records, wax cylinders, and player piano rolls.
Here are two examples:
Just Like Washington Crossed the Delaware, General Pershing Will Cross the Rhine was a very popular song composed by George W. Meyer in 1918. Its lyrics were written by Howard Johnson and published by Leo Feist, Inc.
According to Music VF.com, it’s estimated that “Just Like Washington Crossed the Delaware, General Pershing Will Cross the Rhine” would have reached number four on the top 100 songs list of 1918 with a recording by the Peerless Quartet. A later recording by Prince’s Orchestra would have been number seven of the top 100 songs of 1918.
Image and wax cylinder music: University of California, Santa Barbara Library
According to authors Paas and Watkins*, the 1918 publication featured a cover illustration by Rosenbaum Studios of a painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River with a picture of General Pershing below it. The song describes the American effort in Germany during World War I and draws a direct parallel to the American Revolution. It describes the hope that General Pershing will have the same success against the Germans as George Washington had against Great Britain in the late 1700’s.
General Pershing: One Step or Two Step was a march composed by Carl D. Vandersloot and published by Vandersloot Music Publishing Company in 1918. The song honors John J. Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Forces to victory over Germany in World War I in 1917–18. *Thanks to Lincoln’s Sharon Schwartz for providing the “General Pershing One Step” sheet music.
*Sources: Paas, John Roger (2014). America Sings of War: American Sheet Music from World War I. Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 204, ISBN 9783447102780.
Jump up ^ Watkins, Glenn (2002). Proof Through the Night: Music and the Great War. University of California Press. p. 256. ISBN 9780520927896.