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George M. Cohan

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This year marked the 100th anniversary of the famous WWI song “Over There” by composer, lyricist and actor George M. Cohan. Cohan was born in Providence, R.I. on July 3rd, 1878 of Irish Immigrant parents from County Cork. The spelling of the family name was changed from Keohane to Cohan. George, who first appeared on the stage at age 8 received his many stage talents under the guidance of his parents and went on to become the first person from the world of arts and entertainment to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest U.S. awards bestowed upon civilians for his composition of the songs ‘Over There’ and ‘A Grand Old Flag”. A U.S. Congressman from New York stated the Cohan was honored “because of his ability to instill in the hearts of the growing citizenry a loyal. and patriotic spirit for their country and what it stands for in the eyes of this world.” Cohan passed away on November 5th, 1942 but not before he was given a private showing of the movie “Yankee Doodle Dandy starring actor James Cagney in the role as Cohan. Cagney who also had Irish roots went on to win the Academy Award for best actor for his portrayal of Cohan. Famous quote-during the Gay Nineties he coined his famous curtain speech: “My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you and I thank you.”

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