The second of our films created by the Museum of Richmond Young Curators is Tommies Tunes.
The film was inspired by sheet music found in the museum’s collection. During the war, music preserved bonds between those at home and the men away fighting. Popular songs reflected the realities of the time, with themes of separation, loss, and hardship. Music could also be used as a very powerful form of propaganda, to encourage loyalty and patriotism.
The first song featured in the film is Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers, which celebrated the voluntary work women contributed to the war effort. Pack Up Your Troubles features popular soldiers slang and was sometimes played during recruitment drives to encourage young men to enlist in the forces. The uplifting lyrics meant the song remained well-known 20 years later and was revived during the Second World War. The final song, Keep the Home Fires Burning, encourages the listener to believe that the current sacrifice will be worthwhile.
For soldiers, singing helped improve morale and relieved the monotony of life on the front lines. Sharing music in the trenches brought American jazz to a global audience, as soldiers from many different countries were exposed to what had previously been musical style played mostly by Black Americans.