Biography of Modern Music Composer Carrie Jacobs Bond

About the modern music composer Carrie Jacobs Bond, history and biography.


Carrie Jacobs Bond (1862-1946). Although her songs were never directed toward Tin Pan Alley or the volatile world of musical comedy, Carrie Jacobs Bond achieved prominence as probably the 1st great American woman composer. Her name is generally forgotten today, but not her legacy: "The End of a Perfect Day" and "I Love You Truly." Even in an age touched with skepticism and with small regard for human values, the seriousness of both songs, their heartfelt sentimentality which escapes being maudlin, still is affecting.

Carrie Jacobs was born in Janesville, Wisc., of a musical family. Her grandmother was a 1st cousin of John Howard Payne, who wrote "Home, Sweet Home." As a small child, she played the piano by ear and at 9 took formal lessons. Aptitude in both painting and design were to help her in later, leaner years. Her marriage at 18 ended in divorce, but her remarriage at 25 produced a relationship of mutual devotion. She and Dr. Frank Bond moved to Iron River, in the pine forests of northern Michigan, where several years later he lost all his money in a disastrous investment. When he died suddenly in 1895, Mrs. Bond was not only almost penniless but disabled by rheumatism and completely devoid of any practical experience but keeping house.

Fighting to sustain herself and her young son amidst poverty, the valiant widow tried running a rooming house in Chicago. She took in sewing; she painted designs on china. She continued to write songs, which she had begun originally as a mere diversion, but so dire were her straits that she penned them by candlelight on brown wrapping paper. Eventually this proved the most lucrative of her activities, as her ballads became more widely known through her performance of them at social gatherings and concerts. Though she was a gifted pianist, she had no vocal training and expressively declaimed rather than sang, much as nonsinging actors do on the stage today. Her vaudeville debut was accompanied by a chorus of boos, leaving her heartbroken, but the songs and her unique style eventually would bring her $1,000 a week and put her name in lights.

In 1901, an admirer lent Mrs. Bond enough money to publish a collection with the rather ponderous title "Seven Songs as Unpretentious as the Wild Rose." Two of them--"I Love You Truly" and "Just A-Wearyin' for You"--quickly became standards and were later issued separately. Friends helped her publicize her songs by arranging recitals. Others obtained an invitation for her to sing at the White House for President Theodore Roosevelt. She would later entertain another President, Warren G. Harding.

Henceforth Mrs. Bond devoted her life to publishing, writing words and music, and designing cover pages. A considerable variety of compositions flowed from her pen, but her masterpiece was "The End of a Perfect Day." It was the result of an uplifting moment during a Southern California motor trip in 1910, when Mrs. Bond was moved by the beauty of the flowers and the sunset. In little more than 10 years the sheet-music sale passed 5 million copies. The song was introduced as an encore at a recital in New York, then spread to concert halls, vaudeville, weddings, funerals, barrooms, and even barber shops. Echoing the love and humanity that were endangered by the outbreak of W.W. I, it was a favorite with that war's fighting men. The composer presented it often in concerts at army camps.

The close of Mrs. Bond's perfect day came in Hollywood, where she was buried with a memorial plaque inscribed with Herbert Hoover's tribute to her "heart songs that express the loves and longings, sadness and gladness of all peoples everywhere."

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