Sunday, September 9, 2012

My Victor Collection: Geoffrey O'Hara

Geoffrey O'Hara was a Canadian American composer, singer and music professor. Born February 2, 1882 in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, he initially planned a military career, but abandoned that idea when his father died. He moved to the USA in 1904, the same year he began performing in Vaudeville. He began recording for Edison Records in 1905. In 1913 O'Hara undertook the recording of traditional Indian songs on behalf of the American government. In 1914, he was recorded on phonograph cylinder lecturing about the complexity of the music as well as singing and playing several types of Navajo traditional songs. During World War I he was a singing instructor of patriotic songs for American troops. In 1919 he became a naturalized citizen of the United States and began lecturing on music and songwriting, a task he continued for the remainder of his life. He held positions at Teachers' College of Columbia University, Huron College and the University of South Dakota, where in 1947 he received and honorary Doctor of Music degree. In 1920 O'Hara helped organize The Composers' and Lyric Writers' Protective League. He also was a board member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), was the president of the Composers-Authors Guild. O'Hara composed over 500 popular and patriotic songs and hymns. He had some moderate popular music hits in the 1910s with songs such as Your Eyes Have Told Me What I Did Not Know (1913), Tennessee, I Hear You Calling Me (1914), The Old Songs and one huge hit with K-K-K-Katy (1918), one of the most popular tunes of the World War I era. He was commissioned by the Wilson administration to compose the modern day version of the Star Spangled Banner. O'Hara died on January 31, 1967.

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