This week’s featured sheet music is from the songwriting team of lyricists Sam Lewis (whose most famous lyric is probably “For All We Know”) and Joe Young (whose biggest hit was “I’m Gonna Sit Myself Right Down and Write Me a Letter”), with music by Maurice Jerome. The bittersweet “Just a Baby’s Prayer at Twilight (For her Daddy Over There),” from the Historic Sheet Music, 1800-1922 collection in the Performing Arts Encyclopedia, was published in 1918, near the end of World War I, but the heartbreaking sentiment is perhaps tempered by that frightening baby doll on the little girl’s bed.
The pleasures of old sheet music go beyond the old-fashioned tunes and lyrics and even beyond the striking cover art. The back pages of this piece of music advertise a publication called Pick-me-up, a joke book which promises “Thirty-two pages crammed with screams!” To cement this hyperbolic claim, an illustration of a clown graces the corner of this advertisement. Alas, I have not been able to track down a copy of this ephemeral item in the collection, and would dearly like to know what screams are suggested by the cover illustration, which appears to depict a society lady looking over her shoulder as a dog begs for a treat.