Popular Music and Patriotism

Popular Music and Patriotism
Barbara Bush: Religion, Social Issues and Reform

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: One to two class periods


George and Barbara Bush were engaged and then newly-married during the years of World War II and its aftermath.  This was the era of Big Bands and swing music.  They probably danced to this music and surely enjoyed the patriotic songs.


 The purpose of this lesson is to acquaint students with the uses of popular music during wartime and to its impact on American popular culture.   

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet.  History textbook.  Materials to create timeline.


Play some of the Big Band and/or swing music as students enter the classroom.  Ask them to describe how it differs from music they enjoy today.
Divide the class into 5 groups.  Assign each group one of the categories of popular music of World War II below and have them find the date of composition and the lyrics for one or more of the songs in their category, and then, locate the date on a general timeline of World War II. 
In closing, have students draw conclusions about song topics and the advancement of the war.
Categories of popular music of World War II:
  1. Patriotic (remember Pearl Harbor, Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition)
  2. Morale-boosters (Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive and others)
  3. Love stories (Bell-Bottom Trousers, A Boy in Khaki-A Girl in Lace, First Class Private Mary Brown)
  4. Parting and separation (As Time Goes By, I’ll Walk Alone, I’ll Be Seeing You, I Don’t Want to Walk without You)
  5. Homecoming/dreams of reunion (My Guy’s Come Back, It’s Been a Long, Long Time, My Dreams are Getting Better All the Time)

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson might be extended by having students learn the words and music to some of these songs and give a "World War II" concert for the school.

Sources & Resources:


Music, lyrics, and data about songs is available on-line by conducting a Google search by song title.



This lesson was developed by Bette Brooks, Kent State University.