World War I Songs:
Secular Hits of the Early 1900s

World War I songs (secular songs) were those not necessarily associated with the war effort, but were quite popular during the war era.

I consider any very popular song from 1910 (or even 1900) up to 1920 to be in the category of World War I songs.





Following are a few of the more famous tunes which came out of America's World War I music archives:

  • Keep the Home Fires Burning
    "Til the Boys Come Home" was another title for this song, taken from part of the lyrics. This was a song of encouragement for those families who had sent a son off to war and were anxiously waiting and praying for his safe arrival back home.

    Ivor Novello wrote the tune in 1914, and Lena Ford composed the lyrics.

  • Smiles

  • It's a Long Way to Tipperary
    A song with Irish flavor, this was sung by Americans, the English, Irish, and I'm sure many others. It became known as an American Military March.

    (You can hear this tune sung after the song "Pack up Your Troubles" on

    this page .)

  • Alexander's Ragtime Band
    Now considered a jazz classic, this was the first of Irving Berlin's compositions to become a big hit. It was written in 1911.

    It has been recorded by many famous artists from that year to this, and remains a popular tune. A movie by the same title was released in 1938. The story line was written by the great composer, Irving Berlin himself.

  • How Dry I Am
    A song about the Prohibition (a time when alcohol was outlawed in the U.S.), this tune originated in 1920, soon after the war. It was possibly taken from an old negro spiritual. A popular church hymn called "Happy Day", as well as many other songs, use the same tune.

  • America the Beautiful
    Written in 1920, this patriotic song about the beauty of the U.S.A. remains ever popular today. It is often sung at Independence Day celebrations as well as Memorial Day Events.

    It is considered by many to be the "unofficial" National Anthem of America.



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