A Blessing by Willson

by Kathleen Huebener in Works in Progress
     
 
This Fourth of July celebration, as we honor America’s best and pray for her future, it would be profitable for us to remember one particular work of Meredith Willson,
a famous American composer and a homegrown Iowa boy.

 

What do we know of Meredith Willson? Born in Mason City, Iowa, he was educated at the Juilliard School in New York City. He was a flute and piccolo player in John Philip Sousa’s band and also in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Meredith Willson served as concert director for the radio station KFRC and later as musical director for the NBC radio network in Hollywood.
 
 

Meredith Willson quote in “The Music Man”     

Calligraphy by Katharin
 
 
During World War II, Meredith Willson worked for the US Armed Fources Radio Service. He worked with such greats as George Burns and Gracie Allen on radio, and later was a regular on their TV show. Meredith also worked on Jack Benny’s radio program, and hosted his own program in 1949. Meredith Willson also worked in films, composing the score of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. In the Music Man Square, there is a wax figure of Charlie Chapman to commemorate his work, as seen below.
 
 
 
Nevertheless, what will remain to remember Meredith Willson are his heart-felt songs,
such as “You and I” recorded by Bing Crosby and other singers. His “The Music Man”
songs including “Seventy-Six Trombonesand “Till There Was You,” he attributed
as an Iowan’s attempt to pay tribute to his home state.

 
 
Meredith Willson’s musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” starred Debbie Reynolds.  
       
He wrote many individual songs, including the well-known
“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” I also discovered that Meredith Willson
wrote the University of Iowa’s fight song and also Iowa State University’s
“For I for S Forever.” This man was a proud Iowan true!  
 
 
This Fourth of July we too can be blessed by another of Meredith Willson’s songs. Meredith Willson’s mother taught Sunday School and her weekly farewell was “May the good Lord bless and keep you till we meet again.” This blessing stuck in his mind throughout all his childhood. Many years later, it inspired him to write the closing theme song titled “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You” for a 90-minute radio show, “The Big Show,” starring Tallulah Bankhead. Meredith Willson actually wrote this famous song in a single day.
 

Now for you and for all Americans, Happy Birthday, America; words of

“May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You.” by Meredith Willson: 
 
 

May the good Lord bless and keep you, whether near or far away.

May you find that long awaited golden day today.

May your troubles all be small ones, and your fortune 10 times 10,

May the good Lord bless and keep you till we meet again.
 

May you walk with sunlight shining, And a bluebird in ev’ry tree,

May there be a silver lining back of ev’ry cloud you see.

Fill your dreams with sweet tomorrows, never mind what might have been,

May the good Lord bless and keep you till we meet again,

 May the good Lord bless and keep you till we meet again.

 
 
 

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