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Over the course of American history, African Americans have repeatedly revitalized American music. At no time was this impact greater than around the turn of the twentieth century. This era—which is often considered the low point in American race relations—saw the growing influence and popularity of three styles of African American music: ragtime, the blues, and jazz. Syncopation, improvisation, the use of flattened or bent notes, and a soulful style would exert a powerful influence on conventional popular and even classical music.

The turn of the century also marked the birth of a new era in the commercialization of American popular music. Sheet music publication became centralized in a part of New York City nicknamed Tin Pan Alley, supplanting Chicago and Philadelphia. A new style of music emanated from Tin Pan Alley, faster, brasher, and more up tempo than anything that had come before. The new mood was typified by the most popular song of the 1890s—Ti-Ra-Ra-Boom De Ay. There were also the marches of John Philip Sousa and a syncopated, ragged rhythm piano playing we associate with Scott Joplin and call ragtime.

Meanwhile, new generation of commercial composers appeared. Typified by Charles Harris. They were not products of American Victorianism; many were immigrants and a disproportionate number were Jewish.

Tin Pan Alley produced songs the way that industry manufactured factory goods. A song was a commodity that had to fit a pre-determined formula. All had a catchy, memorable tune. Many had a dance rhythm. The music of Tin Pan Alley changed over time. It is possible to identify three distinct generations.

The first generation produced songs that we now think of as timeless and traditional, such as "When You Were Sweet Sixteen," "My Wild Irish Rose," "In the Good Old Summer Time," "Meet Me In St. Louis, Louis," "Wait 'Til the Sun Shines, Nellie," "Sweet Adeline," and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Rather than drawing on traditional music, the first generation of Tin Pan Alley composers and lyricists created traditional music.

The second generation was led by George M. Cohan, who single-handedly reshaped the American musical stage as a actor, director, playwright, and composer. His songs — "Give My Regards to Broadway," "Yankee Doodle Boy," "You're a Grand Old Flag," and "Over There" — were brash, pugnancious, and aggressively patriotic. A growing number of songs reflected the influence of ragtime, like "Hello! Ma Baby."

A third generation emerged in the second decade of the twentieth century. This was the golden age of Tin Pan Alley. The songwriters of the period—Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and Richard Rodgers—were perhaps the greatest this nation has ever produced. Many of these songwriters were better educated in music than their predecessors, and were able to produce more complex and sophisticated works. They produced standards that continue to be recorded today.

Finally, the Progressive Era saw the emergence of new kinds of protest songs, more popular than any in the past. Social movements used songs to build morale and spread their message. The women's suffrage movement produced a vast assortment of songs. One, "The New America," sung at an 1891 convention, included the following lines:

Our country, now from thee, Claim we our liberty, In freedom's name Guarding home's altar fires, Daughters of patriot sires, Their zeal our own inspires, Justice to claim

Some of the best known protest songs were produced by the Industrial Workers of the World, and distributed through the organization's Little Red Book. Perhaps the most famous IWW song, "Solidarity Forever" by Ralph H. Chaplin, expressed the union's militancy in powerful words:

When the Union's inspiration through the worker's blood shall run, There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun, Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one? But the Union makes us strong.

Alexander's Ragtime Band
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Anchors Aweigh
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Band of Gideon
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Beulah Land
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Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home?
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Blue and the Grey
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Break the News to Mother
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By the Sea
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Caissons Go Rolling Along
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Cake Walk in Coontown
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Casey Jones
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Casey Jones
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Castle House Rag
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Castle Walk
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Colonel Bogey March
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Come Josephine in My Flying Machine
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Come Josephine in My Flying Machine
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Conscientious Objector
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Dixie Land
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Don't Bite the Hand That's Feeding You
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Down by the Old Mill Stream
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Down Home Rag
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Down Where the Swanee River Flows
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Harrigan
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He was Nailed to the Cross for Me
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Hesitating Blues
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Hungarian Rag
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I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl
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In My Merry Oldsmobile
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In the Good Old Summertime
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In the Good Old Summertime
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In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree
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In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree
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Just Because She Made Dem Goo-goo Eyes
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King Porter: A Stomp
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Land of Hope and Glory (Pomp and Circumstances)
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Lanky Yankee Boys in Blue
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Let's All Be Americans Now
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Livery Stable Blues
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Ma Rag Time Baby
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Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis
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Memphis Blues
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Moonlight Bay
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Oh, You Beautiful Doll
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On the Banks of the Wabash
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Pretty Baby
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Pretty Baby
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Pretty Baby
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School Days
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Shine on Harvest Moon
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Smiles
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Smiles
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Smiles
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Some of These Days
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St. Louis Blues
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St. Louis Blues
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Sweetheart of Sigma Chi
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Take Me Out to the Ball Game
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That's an Irish Lullabye
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Tiger Rag Blues
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Too Much Mustard
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Too-a-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral
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Under the Bamboo Tree
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Under the Bamboo Tree
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Waitin' for the Robert E. Lee
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Waiting for the Robert E. Lee
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When We Are Married
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Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?
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Yankee Doodle Boy
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Yankee Doodle Boy
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You're a Grand Old Flag
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You're a Grand Old Flag
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