New York Post
February 17, 1942
'PEACE' CHOIR CHANGES TUNE by Robert L. Stephens
Before the Nazis invaded Russia, a small mixed chorus called the Almanac Singers was using its talents to criticize conscription — already enacted by Congress.
One of its songs had as its theme the vicious isolationist catchphrase, "Plow under every fourth American boy." Another referred to the Selective Service Act as "that goddamned bill."
Last Saturday at the premiere of the government's morale broadcast, "This Is War", the Almanac Singers, now all-out for democracy and conscription, sang a number called "Round and Round Hitler's Grave."
Norman Corwin, director of "This Is War", chose them for his show after hearing them sing some innocuous songs six weeks ago on "We The People", A representative of Corwin said today that Corwin was entirely unaware of the singers' background.
Writing in the Atlantic Monthly for June, 1941, Carl J. Frederich, Harvard professor of government, took notice of these troubadours in an article called "Poison in Our System", since reprinted in pamphlet form by the Council for Democracy, 285 Madison Ave.
"An outfit which calls itself The Almanac Music Co., Inc., has recently brought out a series of phonograph records, called 'Songs for John Doe'," he wrote.
"These recordings are distributed under the innocent appeal: 'Sing Out for Peace'. Yet they are strictly subversive and illegal.
"Sung to such familiar tunes as 'Billy Boy', they ridicule the American defense effort, democracy and the army. Whether Nazi or Communist financed, their general spirit is well indicated by the following sample:
It's C for Conscription, C for Capitol Hill;
C for Conscription and C for Capitol Hill;
It's C for Congress that passed that goddamned bill.
"Another song is called 'Plow Under'; it's the first one, and so I guess they like it best. The first verse runs:
Remember when the AAA
Killed a million hogs a day?
Instead of hogs, it's men today -
Plow the fourth one under!
Plow under, plow under,
Plow under every fourth American boy!
"And the last one:
Now the politicians rant,
"A boy's no better than a cotton plant;"
But we are here to say you can't
Plow the fourth one under!"
These recordings were made by the Almanac Singers, who have now radically changed their tune.
The record album entitled "Songs for John Doe" was withdrawn and is no longer purchasable.
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