The music biz has never shirked from service to its country – even when wartime duties included penning songs like “Let’s Knock the Hit Out of Hitler” and “You’re A Sap, Mr. Jap.”
Better luck next time. No anti- Saddam songs have made the Top 40 yet, but racist war tunes – ranging from the cornily chauvinistic (“To Be Specific, It’s Our Pacific”) to the viciously racist (“We’re Going To Find A Fellow Who Is Yellow And Beat Him Red, White And Blue”) – are probably inevitable, if not immutable. “The Japs Haven’t Got A Ghost Of A Chance” was the final version of “The Japs Haven’t Got A Chinaman’s Chance,” the change a deference to our wartime allies.
While all wars are characterized by some effusions of hatred for the enemy, the amount of hate-mongering reported VARIETY at the beginning of America’s World War II involvement is staggering. The surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor triggered an understandably profound outrage in Americans that was relieved by racist sentiments permitted to surface as patriotic anger.
Purging the Japanese from the more empathic forms of cultural consciousness took such petty practices as dropping “Madame Butterfly” as a Metropolitan Opera production and removing “The Mikado” from a Greenwich Village repertoire. No mention was made in VARIETY of the fate of other Italian or German operas in the Met performance schedule.