Monday July 31, 2017

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Peaches

By Edward Perez

The Robert C. Mellin Sheet Music and Programs Collection in the University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections is an immense catalog of melodic music composers.  

While skimming through his collection, given to the University soon after Mellin’s death in May, I found that it was not limited to composers and their hit records; Mellin also included blogs he typed to accompany composers’ music portfolios.

Having passed Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, I decided to sift through Mellin’s collection and seek records that were produced during World War I and World War II and may have been influenced by the wars. I hoped to scope out lyrics that reflected care for the country’s collective well-being and prosperity.

In a blog on the life of composer Milton Ager, born on Oct. 6, 1893, in Chicago, Mellin wrote that Ager was a self-taught pianist who plugged — or demonstrated — songs for sheet music publisher Waterson, Berlin and Snyder.

Ager was in New York before he was drafted to fight in World War I. He met lyricist Grant Clarke during his service in the armed forces. They later collaborated to produce Ager’s first smash hit, Everything Is Peaches Down in Georgia. It was first recorded on July 25, 1918.

The song was written in the closing months of World War I, and after listening to it, I felt that the lyrics and melody definitely reflected a desire be back in a place they loved and cherished, or at least a yearning for things to resume normality amidst the tension occurring around the globe.

This song may have been intended to reflect Ager and Clarke’s interpretation of the American dream: prosperity, love and happiness.

The song opens saying, “Down in Georgia there are peaches, waiting for you yes, and each is Sweet as any peach, that you could reach for on a tree.”

The song was picked up and tweaked by many artists throughout the years, but the lyrics have stayed the same.

Throughout the record, several elements of Georgian culture are metaphorically compared to the sweetness of a peach.

The chorus sings, “Ev’rything is peaches down in Georgia; what a peach of a clime, for a peach of a time. Believe me, paradise is waiting down there for you.”

Though the song was composed nearly a century ago, its metaphorical meaning may still hold true today for why America is considered the land of opportunity.

- Edward Perez, a senior, is a student employee in the University Archives and Special Collections. 

Works consulted: UASC 035, Robert Mellin Collection, University of Dayton. Songwriter Blogs, A-L.

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