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Composed: 1930

About this Piece

When George and Ira Gershwin were first approached with the idea to set George S. Kaufman’s anti-war satire to music in Strike Up the Band, the brothers were delighted. Gershwin biographer Howard Pollack noted it offered a chance to emulate the tradition of Gilbert and Sullivan, who often layered in political satire in their operettas. Less than a decade removed from armistice in WWI, the story followed an American cheese monopolist who convinces the U.S. government to go to war with Switzerland to protect his market share. The resulting 1927 musical received critical acclaim but was a commercial flop during its Philadelphia run.

Three years later, Strike Up the Band was heavily revised for a Broadway production. In addition to a reworked plot that softened the cynical outlook and swapped cheese for chocolate, the Gershwins changed much of the music, removing songs like “The Man I Love,” which found a second life as a songbook staple, revising the satirical lyrics to “Strike Up the Band” that they would later gift to UCLA to use, and adding the new showstopper “Soon.” While the Gilbert and Sullivan outlook was lost, the 1930 revision—as “Soon” demonstrates—added more of the swing-era jazz vocabulary, and the Broadway run featured the Red Nichols Orchestra in the pit, which included the likes of Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller.