The sinking of the Titanic—in words and music

The demise of the Titanic—set to arrive at Chelsea Piers on its maiden voyage to New York—was shocking and traumatic.

And it didn’t take long after the ship went down April 15, 1912 for the city’s prolific music companies to release novelty songs about the ill-fated liner.

Maybe the songwriters were dealing with the horror of the tragedy through art, or perhaps they were simply capitalizing on a national disaster.

Either way, the lyrics were generally pretty melodramatic, like these from “The Band Played Nearer My God to Thee as the Ship Went Down,” produced by the Joe Morris Music Company on 31st Street:

“On a peaceful night
Thro’ the starlight bright
There a good ship plowed her way;
She was heading straight
For the port of fate
Ere the breaking of the day”

Some were aimed at specific audiences—like the music above, from the Hebrew Publishing Company on Canal Street.

The cover art features Isidor and Ida Straus, husband and wife who refused to leave each other as the Titanic was sinking. Instead, they urged their maid and other passengers to take their place in the lifeboats.

Isidor was the owner of Macy’s, and he and his wife were prominent German Jews.

“The Titanic Is Doomed and Sinking,” from the Mozart Music Library at 1431 Broadway, also lays the melodrama on thick:

“There are many aged mothers
In all the wide world o’er
Who will weep and wail in anguish
For some one who come no more”

[All images from the NYPL digital archives]

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One Response to “The sinking of the Titanic—in words and music”

  1. Mark Neal Says:

    Speaking of music, I read a recently released book called The Band that Played On, about the eight musicians aboard the Titanic who gave their lives playing music to keep people calm during the Titanic sinking. One of the songs they are rumored to have played while the ship was sinking was “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” Here’s a link to the Amazon page:

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