Fanfare For The Common Man

Album: not on an album (1942)

Songfacts®:

  • Aaron Copland composed the triumphant percussion and brass piece "Fanfare For The Common Man" to rally Americans after the nation's entry into World War II. He was commissioned by Eugene Goossens, conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, to write the anthem for the 1942-43 concert season, which would feature 18 fanfares by American composers (an idea he originated during World War I with British composers).

    Copland was influenced by a speech from US Vice President Henry A. Wallace, who stated at the Free World Association in New York City: "I say that the century on which we are entering, the century which will come out of this war, can be and must be the century of the common man."

    If anyone deserved a fanfare, Copland thought, it was the common man, "who was doing all the dirty work in the war and the army." He wrote the brief instrumental (less then four minutes) in a rented cottage at the Dellbrook Estate in Oakland, New Jersey.
  • This premiered on March 12, 1943, a much-needed boost to every common man who was busy doing his income taxes.
  • The anthem's popularity endured far beyond the war, adding notes of drama and triumph to sporting events like the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and introducing concerts from Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones. In 2014, the New York Philharmonic also performed it at the dedication of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in Manhattan.
  • In 1977, Emerson, Lake & Palmer re-envisioned this as a keyboard-driven rock anthem on the album Works, Volume 1. Their version peaked at #2 on the UK chart. Styx also has a guitar-fueled rendition as part of their Movement For The Common Man suite on their self-titled debut album (1972).
  • In 2008, this served as the wake-up music for the crew of the space shuttle Endeavor, chosen by mission pilot Eric Boe, and again in 2011 for the Atlantis crew embarking on the final Space Shuttle mission.
  • John Williams' classic 1978 Superman theme shares a similar horn melody to the fanfare, which is often cited as an influence.

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