chapter  2
“Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition”
Propaganda music as a governmental marketing tool during the WWII era
WithZoë Jensiene Godfrey
Pages 22

For centuries, governments have used music as a staple propaganda tool, creating catchy melodies that tug at nationalist emotions, unite strangers, and spur individuals to action. This chapter investigates how governments interacted with music, shaped patterns of music consumption, and commissioned music as a form of propaganda during the World War II (WWII) era, with a focus on activities that took place in the United States and Germany. For the portion of the chapter covering American music efforts, there is an analysis of the ways that nationalistic propaganda, especially music, often borrows from religious themes. The chapter also discusses two music efforts with opposite goals; the United States’ MUZAK Project, meant to demoralize the enemy, and the United Service Organizations’ “USO Show” programs, meant to improve the morale of the troops. The section that covers German music efforts during WWII includes much about the Nazi promotion of pro-party music, musicians, and composers, and simultaneous ban of those that they viewed as not fitting with their cause. The Nazis classified and banned certain styles of music as “degenerate.” This was the case with jazz music, for example, and the performance of jazz and sale of jazz records were both forbidden. As is covered in the chapter, the Nazis soon discovered that they could not control jazz music completely and set out to create state-sponsored jazz music to control the message but satisfy the increasing demand. The history of propaganda music is recounted in several interviews with individuals who acted as both consumers and creators of propaganda music during the WWII era. In conclusion, the chapter connects the past with the present, analyzing the enduring impacts of propagandistic music on society.