Encore Episode: “Yearning To Breathe Free”: George M. Cohan & The Immigrants Who Invented The Broadway Musical

In This Episode

This is a special holiday rerelease of the very first episode of Broadway Nation.

In this episode David Armstrong and Albert Evans begin to tell the remarkable story of how Immigrants, Jews, Queers, and African-Americans invented America’s signature art form — the Broadway Musical. This includes a special emphasis on George M. Cohan, the grandson of Irish immigrants who to a great extent invented the Broadway “Musical Comedy”, as we know it. And after many years of controversy, recent research has revealed that he really was “born on the 4th of July” as he always claimed.

The Broadway Musical was born around the turn of the last century and it emerged out of what we used to call “the melting pot” – that simmering confluence of cultures and races that were packed into the teeming tenement neighborhoods of New York City. To an enormous extent the Musical can be called an “Immigrant art form” – it certainly was originated almost entirely by men and women from outside of the mainstream of society.” What they created was something totally new. A popular, democratic kind of music-theater that — like most great American inventions — was inspired by both a strong desire to express oneself, and a strong necessity to put food on the table. The concept of “the melting pot” has lost favor with some historians, but, as you will hear, it remains a very apt description of how various multi-cultural artistic traditions blended together to create the American musical.

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