Anti-war Music, 1915-Style
February 13, 2014 5:22 PM Subscribe
Ever wondered what anti-war music would have sounded like a hundred years ago? Listen to the song that enraged a Roosevelt, inspired any number of diss songs and riffs, and set pacifism to a Sousa-like tempo: "I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier."Recorded in 1914 by the Peerless Quartet
, written by Alfred Bryan (lyrics) and Al Piantadosi (music
), and popularized by singer Morton Harvey
, "I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier" became one of the most popular songs of 1915. The song called upon mothers to imagine what a world without war could be, if only mothers would discourage their sons from going to war (full lyrics
). Its second verse:
I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier,
I brought him up to be my pride and joy.
Who dares to place a musket on his shoulder,
To shoot some other mother's darling boy?
Let nations arbitrate their future troubles,
It's time to lay the sword and gun away.
There'd be no war today,
If mothers all would say,
"I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier."
Enraged at its pro-peace sentiment, former president Theodore Roosevelt commented acidly
that women who agreed with it should be “in China—or by preference in a harem—and not in the United States.”
He wasn't the only American to make the popular song a target; parody soon followed pacifism with "I Didn't Raise My Dog to Be a Sausage,"
Groucho Marx's "I Didn't Raise My Boy, He Had the Joker,"
“I Did Not Raise My Boy to Be a Solder, But I’ll Send My Girl to Be a Nurse," "I'm Glad My Boy Grew Up To Be A Soldier,"
and "I Did Not Raise My Boy to Be a Coward"
Though its popularity was brief, and soon eclipsed by events, it has remained lodged in the American consciousness. "Green Acres" riffed on it in 1966 with an episode entitled "I Didn't Raise My Pig to Be a Soldier,"
and it was re-recorded by The Eli Radish Band in 1969. (I appreciated this
a capella version, sung from memory, by an older American.) You can download your own copy here