Vice Presidents by their nature are rather anonymous and easily forgotten. Richard Mentor Johnson, George Dallas, and Schuyler Colfax aren't exactly household names. But sometimes, extraordinary men are elevated to this rather ordinary office and do extraordinary things. They advise, they craft policy, and sometimes...they make music.
This is the forgotten history of the Vice Presidential Pop Star.
Charles Dawes was a man of many interests and talents; something of a microcosm of America itself. And in a very real way, Dawes was America itself. A descendant of both Edward Doty, a passenger on the Mayflower, and William Dawes who accompanied Paul Revere on his midnight ride, Dawes from an early age knew that he wanted to live up to his famous family name.
But in what field? He loved music and played the piano and composed music, even writing a popular song for the piano and violin entitled “Melody in A Major.” But to make money, he knew he needed a more sensible career. He practiced law for years, but his talent for business eventually led him into the gas industry, where he made his fortune.
His success in business in both Illinois and Wisconsin attracted the attention of politicians in both states and the Republican Party of Illinois convinced him to run the state's effort to elect William McKinley to the presidency. After McKinley won, he appointed Dawes as his Comptroller of the U.S. Treasury.
He ran for Senate in 1902, but after he lost, he thought he was done with politics. When World War I broke out, he served with distinction and eventually reached the rank of brigadier general and was responsible for much of the Army's war spending.
After the war, he was drawn right back into politics when President Warren G. Harding appointed him to the Allied Reparations Commission, which was established to figure out a way for Germany to pay for the war it had started and lost. The Commission adopted Dawes' plan, appropriately called the Dawes Plan, and it was so popular and successful that Dawes won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1923.
The following year, the Republican Party selected him to be Calvin Coolidge's running mate and he became Vice President. After Coolidge announced that he wouldn't run again in 1928, Dawes served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom under President Herbert Hoover and then retired from public life to return to the public sector.
A man of many interests, Dawes got into the banking industry and worked in it until he died in 1951 at the age of 85. He had lived an extraordinary life, but his legacy was only just starting to be formed.
That same year, songwriter Carl Sigman discovered the old song Dawes had written 40 years earlier and added lyrics to it, calling his new creation "It's All in the Game." Singers loved it and almost as soon as it was written, stars like Sammy Kaye, Dinah Shore, and Tommy Edwards all recorded versions of it.
Edwards' version in particular became quite popular, and it hit Number 18 on the Billboard chart. Seven years later, Edwards needed another song to fulfill his contract obligations with his record label, so he decided to re-record "It's All in the Game" by taking advantage of two new innovations that were taking over music: Stereophonic sound and rock and roll.
This new version was an instant smash hit, and in 1958, seven years after he died, Charles Dawes--the man of many talents--became the first Vice President (and first Nobel Prize winner)--to have a number one song.