Through the preservation efforts of institutions like the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian, some of these vintage sound recordings of Sousa's favorite compositions remain available in digital form. Click Here to enjoy the most popular patriotic marches of this great American composer entitled, "Stars and Stripes Forever." In addition, if you stay with the web link, you will hear other stirring marches.
History of "Stars and Stripes Forever"
Surprisingly, John Philip Sousa's great American patriotic march Stars and Stripes Forever was written, not in the aftermath of a great battle, but on an ocean liner, as Sousa and his wife were returning from a European vacation.
In late 1896, they were at sea when word came that the manager of The Sousa Band, David Blakely, had died suddenly. The band was scheduled to begin another cross-country tour soon, and Sousa knew he had to return to America right away to take over the band's business affairs. Sousa tells the rest of the story in his autobiography, Marching Along.
"Here came one of the most vivid incidents of my career. As the vessel (the Teutonic) steamed out of the harbor I was pacing on the deck, absorbed in thoughts of my manager's death and the many duties and decisions which awaited me in New York.
"Suddenly, I began to sense a rhythmic beat of a band playing within my brain.
"Throughout the whole tense voyage, that imaginary band continued to unfold the same themes, echoing and re-echoing the most distinct melody. I did not transfer a note of that music to paper while I was on the steamer, but when we reached shore, I set down the measures that my brain-band had been playing for me, and not a note of it has ever changed."
— John Philip Sousa (1928)
Composed on Christmas Day in 1896, the march was an immediate success, and The Sousa Band played it at almost every concert until Sousa's death more than 25 years later.
It became the official march of the United States of America in 1987 through an Act of U.S. Congress.
May God bless America.
In 1955, the State Department of the United States sent our band to Havana Cuba to play for the inauguration of Fulgencio Batista, prior to the overthrow of Castro. One of the several concerts we played was at the America Embassy located as I remember near the sea water of the Caribbean. They brought a bus load of blind children to the concert. After we finished the concert, our band director allowed the blind children to meet and talk with us a band members. These blind children wanted to feel of our horns. Of course, we gladly granted them that privilege. For me that was one of the most memorial events on that trip to Havana, Cuba.]