Break the News to Mother
DESCRIPTION: "While shot and shell were screaming Across the battlefield, The boys in blue were fighting, Their noble flag to shield." The flag falls. A boy volunteers and rescues the flag; he dies asking that someone "break the news to mother"
AUTHOR: Charles K. Harris
EARLIEST DATE: 1897 (sheet music)
KEYWORDS: army battle war dying mother youth
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf) US(MW)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Greenleaf/Mansfield 179, "While the Boys in Blue Were Fighting" (2 texts)
Stout 91, pp. 113-116, "Break the News to Mother" (3 texts plus a fragment)
Neely, pp. 212-213, "Break the News to Mother" (1 text)
Spaeth-ReadWeep, pp. 175-176, "Break the News to Mother" (1 text, 1 tune).
Mr. Walsh, ("As shot and shell were screaming") (on MUNFLA/Leach)
cf. "The Brave Fireman (Break the News to Mother Gently)" (tune, theme)
NOTES [138 words]: Charles K Harris wrote "The Brave Fireman" in 1891. He rewrote it as "Break the News to Mother" in 1897.
Brett Page in "Writing for Vaudeville" quotes Harris: "When Gillette's war plays, 'Held by the Enemy' and 'Secret Service' caught the national eye, I caught the national ear with 'Just Break the News to Mother.'"
Realist playwright Gillette's "Held by the Enemy" was a hit in 1886; "Secret Service" opened in New York October 5, 1896 and ran for a year. Both are set in the Civil War.
Harris wrote "Just Break the News to Mother" in 1897 and it became a big hit the following year with the outbreak of the Spanish-American War.
It became a hit again in 1917 when the World War I field uniform was no longer blue; in fact, blue uniforms were being phased out by 1898.
Harris's text can be found on the Mudcat Cafe site - BS
Last updated in version 3.2
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.