Abraham Lincoln | A Minute with Miles

February 12 is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and I wonder if you knew that our sixteenth president was a great music lover. Not only that, he was an opera lover. On his way to Washington for his first inauguration, Lincoln stopped in New York City and attended a performance of Verdi’s A Masked Ball – which is a little spooky, since that opera features the assassination of a political figure – and for the festivities at his second inaugural, he ordered a performance of Friedrich von Flotow’s opera Martha. During the Civil War, the president went to the opera some thirty times, and to those who criticized him for that, he replied, “I must have a change, or die.” His tastes were in fact wide ranging: he also liked popular songs and sentimental ballads, and was partial to the piano music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk. One of Lincoln’s favorite songs, believe it or not, was “Dixie,” and after the war he happily proclaimed it “federal property.”