Distinctive college songs in American colleges doubtless came into being under the influence of student songs, particularly the German student songs, of the European universities. Many are obviously of German parentage, the music having been taken over bodily in some instances and the refrains vocalized in imitation of old German drinking songs. The first collection of college secret-society songs appeared in 1849, and Yale's first book of songs bears the date 1853.
The college songs of the University of Michigan rank high among those of other American colleges. Expressing the conviviality and inspiration of student life, wherever Michigan undergraduates or alumni meet, the singing of these old songs at once revives sentiments and memories which are dear to all and renews bonds of affection and loyalty.
During the 1860's efforts were made by student publications to increase the interest in singing at Michigan. In 1860 the Palladium encouraged the writing of college songs, and in the University Magazine for February, 1862, appeared "Ann Arbor Litoria," which became very popular:
Professor Frieze (see Part I: The Administration of Henry Simmons Frieze), who was an excellent musician and a devoted lover of music, rendered incalculable service to the University and to the student body in his untiring efforts to develop an interest in things musical. He introduced and directed the choir at chapel exercises and constantly endeavored to arouse enthusiasm for student songs and singing. His efforts led to the establishment of definite student musical organizations, instrumental and vocal, of choral groups, class glee clubs and finally of the University Glee Club. New impetus was thereby given to the writing and singing of Michigan songs.
The most noteworthy collection is contained in a pamphlet, issued in 1889, entitled Songs of the Yellow and Blue. The publication of this slight volume marked an important step in the history of student singing at Michigan. The book contains some twenty songs, the words by Charles Mills Gayley ('78) and Fred Newton Scott ('84), and the music for the most part by Albert A. Stanley (A.M. hon. Mich. '90, D. Mus. '30) — all three honored alumni of the University and important figures in its development. In March, 1890, a second edition appeared. Some of these songs have become forever associated with Michigan student life. The first song in the volume is "The Yellow and Blue," the words by Gayley and music arranged from Balfe's "Pirate's Chorus." "Laudes Atque Carmina," the words by Gayley and music by Stanley, and "Goddess of the Inland Seas," the words by Gayley and the music adapted from J. Peters, are among the noblest and most inspired of college songs. Other songs celebrate the fun and good spirit of student life. Worthy of mention in this category are "Birds of a Feather," the "Cigarette Song," "The Co-ed That Vanquishes Me," "Elixir Juventatis," "Romeo and Juliet," and "We, Women of the Nation." "Ann Arbor" was arranged to the tune "The Page 1782Watch on the Rhine," at that time a widely used melody in American schools and colleges. This collection, of which Michigan can certainly be proud, has been described as "easily superior to the song-book of any other college" of its day.
In student publications of the 1880's and 1890's are many excellent verses and songs which were adapted to popular tunes of the times. Some of them today are merely a memory. In the Castalian of 1892 appeared "Universitas Michiganensium" by Frank W. Howe ('93), sung to the tune "Michigan My Michigan."
The "Friar's Song," the words by Harold W. Bowman ('00), was sung for many years at the meetings of the Friars Club and deserves a place in any Michigan songbook. Another old favorite is "'Tis of Michigan We Sing, with a merry, merry ring …" Of the three outstanding contributions in the volume of 1889, the "Laudes Atque Carmina," one of the most memorable of American college songs, has lost in favor because of the almost universal unfamiliarity with the Latin language, and the "Goddess of the Inland Seas" has proven a bit too involved in its classical allusions for modern tastes. "The Yellow and Blue" has taken its place as Michigan's college song.
Student groups have always sung the popular tunes of the times, sometimes adapting them to more purely local conditions. The popularity of athletics, especially of football, since the late 1890's has given rise to many stirring songs and marches. Best known of these has been "The Victors" by Louis Elbel ('96-'99), which has become the Michigan march on all occasions and is known as such throughout the land. Scarcely less popular is the football song, "Varsity," words by J. Fred Lawton ('11), and music by Earl V. Moore ('12). These two stirring march songs have inspired many a Michigan man and woman at athletic contests and pep-meetings. Not so well known nor so popular, but worthy of mention, are the "Men of the Maize and Blue," music by A. J. Gornetzky to words by W. A. P. John; "Fight Men of Michigan," words and music by William C. Archi, Jr., ('14, '17l); "Win for Michigan," by William T. Whedon ('81); and "Men of Yost," by M. B. Cooper, also the composer of the "Michigan Drinking Song."
The Michigan Union operas of the first two decades of the twentieth century provided many of the favorite later day student songs. "Michigenda" (1908) gave the hits "When Night Falls, Dear" and "Oh, Alma Mater," by Roy D. Welch ('09), who also wrote "A Faithful Pipe to Smoke" for the opera "Culture." "Koanzaland" (1909) gave to Michigan two of its well-known favorites, "In College Days" and "Michigan, Good-bye," words by Donald A. Kahn ('07-'10) and music by Earl V. Moore. "The Crimson Chest" (1910) contained the "Bum Army" and "Take Me Back to College," and "Contrairie Mary" (1913) produced the "Friar's Song" and "Men of the Maize and Blue." One of the most widely sung of later day songs has been the "I Want To Go Back to Michigan, to Dear Ann Arbor Town …" The enthusiasm for athletics and the operatic ambitions of the Union have not succeeded, however, in giving us songs which are comparable to the "Laudes Atque Carmina" and the "Yellow and Blue" of the Songbook issued in 1889.