1917 sheet music cover with Nora Bayes

"Over There" is a 1917 song written by George M. Cohan, that was popular with the United States military and public during both world wars. It is a patriotic song designed to galvanize American young men to enlist in the army and fight the "Hun". The song is best remembered for a line in its chorus: "The Yanks are coming."[1]

HistoryEdit

It has been revived on various occasions during and after World War II.[1] It was not heavily used during Vietnam, but has been used since the September 11 terrorist attacks.[2]

LyricsEdit

 
Sheet music from 1917 featuring sailor William J. Reilly of the USS Michigan.
 
Cover drawing of soldiers from sketch by Henry Hutt.

As sung by early 20th century recording artist Billy Murray:

Verse 1

Johnny,[3] get your gun, get your gun, get your gun.
Take it on the run, on the run, on the run.
Hear them calling you and me,
Every Son of Liberty.
Hurry right away, no delay, go today.
Make your Daddy glad to have had such a lad.
Tell your sweetheart not to pine,
To be proud her boy's in line.

Verse 2

Johnny, get your gun, get your gun, get your gun.
Johnny, show the "Hun"[4] you're a son-of-a-gun.
Hoist the flag and let her fly
Yankee Doodle[5] do or die.
Pack your little kit, show your grit, do your bit.
Yankee[6] to the ranks from the towns and the tanks.[7]
Make your Mother proud of you
And the old red-white-and-blue[8]

Chorus

Over there, over there,
Send the word, send the word over there
That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming
The drums rum-tumming everywhere.
So prepare, say a prayer,
Send the word, send the word to beware –
We'll be over, we're coming over,
And we won't come back till it's over, over there.

In popular cultureEdit

AdvertisingEdit

FilmEdit

  • The most famous of many film appearances is in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) starring James Cagney in his Oscar-winning performance.[1] The way the film portrays it, Cohan is watching a military band parade by, and a segment of one of their songs catches his ear, a simple triad that he finds himself whistling. Late at night, he is seen slowly working out the complete new song on a piano, note by note. The next scene unveils the song, as Cohan (Cagney) and a woman dressed in uniform (Frances Langford, portraying Nora Bayes) sing it to a large and appreciative audience. The song is reprised at the very end of the film. As Cohan is leaving the White House grounds, a group of soldiers march past the now-aged Cohan, singing the song. Another bystander, also elderly, does a startled take as he finds himself standing next to the author of that song. Cohan (along with other citizens) begins to march alongside and in step with the soldiers. One of them (character actor Frank Faylen), not knowing who the old man is, teases him into joining the singing. The film irises-out on a closeup of Cohan (Cagney) singing the final line of the song's chorus.
  • Cartoon films at the time used the song in WWII related shorts. The song is most noticeably heard in MGM's 1942 short, Blitz Wolf, as well as War Dogs and Yankee Doodle Mouse the following year.
  • In Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), the chorus of the song is used to herald the arrival of American troops on the pier which serves as the symbolic setting in the film, with a line of lyrics changed to "We won't come back, we'll be buried over there."

TelevisionEdit

  • When Niles learns that Frasier is no longer frequenting the Fox & Whistle in "Where Every Bloke Knows Your Name", episode 10, season 5 of Frasier, he references the lyrics of "Over There" in his response: "I take it it's over over there."
  • "The Yanks are Coming", the title of an episode (series 3, episode 25) in the popular BBC science fiction sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart, is derived from the above.
  • In Season 2 Episode 20 of The Simpsons ("The War of the Simpsons") Grampa Simpson sings it in the shower, blissfully unaware of the mayhem just outside the bathroom.
  • In Season 7 Episode 13 of Mad Men, when Don attends a dinner with vets, they sing "The Yanks are coming".
  • In Season 5 Episode 17 of The Golden Girls, when Blanche goes in to get a pacemaker, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia sing it.
  • In Season 5 Episode 17 of Boston Legal, it is played in the scene before the opening. It is also heard in other places where Alan Shore and Denny Crane's Coast Guard Auxiliary involvement is highlighted.
  • In Ken Burns' documentary series Baseball, a somber piano version is used to accompany tales of the effects of the Great War on professional baseball players.
  • In Season 5 Episode 4 of Family Guy, the song is performed by Vern and Johnny, two vaudeville men.

LiteratureEdit

  • The title of John A. Lee's book The Yanks are Coming (1943) is a reference to the song.
  • The title of the anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun (1938) by Dalton Trumbo is an answer to the line "Johnny get your gun" in the song.

References and notesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Mondello, Bob (December 20, 2018). "George M. Cohan, 'The Man Who Created Broadway,' Was An Anthem Machine". American Anthem. NPR. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  2. ^ *Collins, Ace (2003). Songs Sung, Red, White, and Blue: The Stories Behind America's Best-Loved Patriotic Songs. HarperResource. ISBN 0060513047., pages 138-145.
  3. ^ "Johnny" is a very common English given name and is used to address any anonymous man or men.
  4. ^ Now usually sung "Johnny on the run...".
  5. ^ Now usually sung as "Like true heroes..."
  6. ^ Now usually sung as "Soldiers..."
  7. ^ Short for "tank town", meaning any town so small its primary purpose was to provide water for steam locomotives.
  8. ^ Now usually sung as "And to liberty be true."
  9. ^ "Trump's 'USA Freedom Kids' sing at rally". YouTube.

External linksEdit