common man

Fanfare for the Common Man

Fanfare for the Common Man is a work by American composer Aaron Copland, and one of the most recognizable pieces of 20th century American classical music. The piece was written in 1942 for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under conductor Eugène Goossens.


A fanfare is a short piece scored for brass and percussion. The fanfare is written for the following instruments:

The Fanfare

Copland, in his autobiography, wrote of the request: "Eugene Goossens, conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, had written to me at the end of August about an idea he wanted to put into action for the 1942-43 concert season. During World War I he had asked British composers for a fanfare to begin each orchestral concert. It had been so successful that he thought to repeat the procedure in World War II with American composers". A total of eighteen fanfares were written at Goossens' behest, but Copland's is the only one which remains in the standard repertoire.

Goosens had suggested titles such as Fanfare for Soldiers, or sailors or airmen, and he wrote that "[i]t is my idea to make these fanfares stirring and significant contributions to the war effort...." Copland considered several titles including Fanfare for a Solemn Ceremony and Fanfare for Four Freedoms; to Goossens' surprise, however, Copland titled the piece Fanfare for the Common Man. Goossen wrote "Its title is as original as its music, and I think it is so telling that it deserves a special occasion for its performance. If it is agreeable to you, we will premiere it 12 March 1943 at income tax time". Copland's reply was "I [am] all for honoring the common man at income tax time".

The fanfare was also used as the main theme of the fourth movement of Copland's Third Symphony.

Alternate versions

Copland's fanfare was reincarnated in 1977 by British rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer on the album Works Volume I. It became one of the band's biggest hits when an edited version was released as a single that year. Keith Emerson had long been an admirer of Copland's Americana style, previously using Copland's Hoedown on the band's Trilogy album in 1972.

An excerpt of Fanfare for the Common Man also opens the Rolling Stones album Love You Live (1977), as it was used to open the 1976 concert tour supporting the Black and Blue album.

The American rock band Styx has also used the Copland piece. Their 1972 self-titled debut album opens with a suite called Movement for the Common Man. The third section of the suite, titled Fanfare for the Common Man, is loosely based on the Copland original.

Additionally, the rock band Asia (which shares the drummer Carl Palmer from Emerson, Lake & Palmer) often plays a variation of Fanfare during their live shows. Different versions have appeared on various live Asia albums over the years as well.

The Woody Herman Orchestra was known for closing their performances with a jazz rendition of Fanfare for the Common Man.

Bob Dylan has also opened his shows with Fanfare for the Common Man.

On television and other media

The fanfare has found much use as a theme for television programs. In the United States, Emerson, Lake and Palmer's arrangement of Fanfare for the Common Man was the opening theme song for CBS's CBS Sports Spectacular. In Mexico, it was the main title song of TV Azteca TV sport program DeporTV. In Scotland, the BBC used it as the theme to their main news program Reporting Scotland in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Australian television network Seven Network used it for many years as the theme music for Seven Sport broadcasts. A late 1970s Canadian television series called "Titans" used Fanfare as its opening theme music.

In the mid-1990s, the song was used as background music in United States Navy recruitment advertisements.

David Gerrold references it in the last chapter of his science fiction book "The Middle of Nowhere" (1995) as recognition sound of the Star Wolf. He aso uses it for Lambda's funeral in the same book.

Dan Cole, a radio talk show host on KFAN-AM, uses Buddy Rich's version of this song as his opener. The song is played in its entirety but is augmented by audio clips by celebrities such as Dennis Green, Bill Clinton, and Mike Tice.

The piece was played to fireworks at the closing ceremonies of New York's Shea Stadium on September 28, 2008.



  • Copland 1900 Through 1942, by Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, St. Martin's Press, 1984, ISBN 0-312-16962-0

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