charles dawes, calvin coolidge
Charles Dawes

America’s 30th vice president has the distinction of being the only man who was both a heartbeat away from the presidency and the composer of a song that hit the top of the pop music charts. Charles Dawes, a descendant of Revolutionary War figure William Dawes (who, along with Paul Revere, made a midnight ride on April 18, 1775, to warn that the British were coming), served as vice president under Calvin Coolidge from 1925 to 1929. In 1911, Dawes, then a Chicago banker and self-taught amateur musician, penned a tune that would become known as “Melody in A Major.” After one of Dawes’ musician friends brought the instrumental number to a publisher, it went on to be performed by a leading violinist of the time, Fritz Kreisler, and was sold as a phonograph record. In 1951, Carl Sigman added lyrics to Dawes’ tune, which was renamed “It’s All in the Game.” Seven years later, in 1958, a recording of the song by R&B-pop vocalist Tommy Edwards climbed to No. 1 in the U.S. and Britain. “It’s All in the Game” eventually was covered by such entertainers as Van Morrison, Elton John, Merle Haggard and Barry Manilow. Although Dawes didn’t live to see the success of “It’s All in the Game”—the former vice president died in 1951 at age 85—he did rack up a number of other achievements during his lifetime, including the 1925 Nobel Peace Prize, which he was awarded for the Dawes Plan, a reparations payment plan for Germany following World War I.

None of Dawes’ vice-presidential successors have followed in his steps as a hit maker, but modern holders of that office do have an official song: “Hail, Columbia.” Composed in the late 18th century, it served as an unofficial national anthem before “The Star-Spangled Banner” was formally adopted as America’s national anthem in 1931. Later, “Hail, Columbia” started being played to honor the vice president.

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