The claim that Atatürk made the song ‘Istanbul (not Constantinople)’ written

CLAIM: Atatürk made the song “Istanbul (not Constantinople)” written.

FALSE

It was claimed in a post which was shared on social media and sent to teyit.org that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk made the song “Istanbul (not Constantinople)” written.

A tweet posted on Twitter by an account named Zerden received nearly 1,800 retweets and 5,500 likes.

Nevertheless, the claim that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk made the song “İstanbul (Not Constantinople)” of The Four Lads vocal band written is false. The song which was written and composed by Jimmy Kennedy and Nat Simon, respectively was first recorded in New York, Columbia on August 12, 1953 by the Canadian quartet, The Four Lads. Based on the statements written in the booklet of the music album, it can be said that Kennedy and Simon who owned the copyrights of the song wrote the song as a response to a song named “Constantinople” which was recorded in 1928 by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra.

The song was first recorded in 1953

According to the information in the music database, Discogs, the song of The Four Lads called “İstanbul (not Constantinople)” was released in 1953. On Wikipedia, it is reported that the said song was recorded at New York studios of Columbia Records on August 12, 1953. The same information is mentioned on YouTube link of the song as well.

This song which can be categorized as one of the novelty songs -a favorite music genre in the US in the first half of the 20th century- was recorded at Tin Pan Alley studios of the record label, Columbia Records located at New York. Tin Pan Alley is the name of a street in Manhattan which hosts the offices and studios of many US music publishers and songwriters.

Members of the Four Lads band

Cover of the album dated 1953

Judy Harris published a list of the old album records within her collection on her personal blog. The list contains “16 Most Requested Songs” of The Four Lads released in 1991. It is written in the booklet of the album that the songwriter Jimmy Kennedy and the composer Nat Simon made the claimed song as a response to the “Constantinople” song of Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra dated 1928.

The same information included in the booklet of the album dated 1991 can be found on a website named 45worlds which displays the cover designs of many music albums and their booklets. There is a statement of Will Friedman who is a specialist in American jazz history, in the booklet of the album. Friedman’s statement from his book named “JazzSinging” indicates that The Four Lads composed the claimed song as an answer to the song of Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra released in 1928.

The information on page 4 of the inner face of the album dated 1991

It can be seen on Amazon which contains information about the album dated 1991 that copyrights of the song were first granted in 1953. Considering such information, it can be said that it is unlikely to establish a link between the creation process of the song of The Four Lads and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who died in 1938. Besides, there is no evidence on the internet that composers of the song, Kennedy and Simon either visited Turkey or connected to Turkey prior to release date of the song.

Paul Whiteman’s song “Constantinople” caused confusion

According to the information in the booklet of the album, lyrics of the relevant song was written with reference to another song recorded in 1928. The name of this song is “Constantinople” which was produced in May 1928 by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra featuring Bing Corsby. It can be seen on YouTube that the song was recorded on May 17, 1928.

A Twitter profile called Zerden claimed that the song “Constantinople” is the same with the song of The Four Lads. In her tweet, she asserted that the song which was previously sung by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra was performed again by The Four Lads band.

Lyrics of both songs can be found on internet. The complete difference between two songs can be understood when their lyrics are compared. There is no relation to İstanbul city, except the spelling of “Constantinople” word in the song of Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra.

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Oh Constantinople
Now it’s Turkish delight on a moonlit night
Every gal in Constantinople
Lives in Istanbul, not Constantinople
So if you’ve a date in Constantinople
She’ll be waiting in Istanbul
Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it I can’t say
People just liked it better that way
So, Take me back to Constantinople
No, you can’t go back to Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Oh Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That’s nobody’s business but the Turks
Istanbul
Istanbul
Lyrics of “The Four Lads- Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” 

C – O – N.
S – T – A – N – T – I – N.
O – P – L – E,
Constantinople.
Brrrrrrrrow,
Mr No-one No-one was the teacher in a
school giving a lesson one afternoon.
Little Tommy Tomkins was the dunce and what a fool,
Didn’t know which was the sun or moon.
Brrrrrrow,
Teacher said to Tommy Tomkins well,
See if you can sing this while you spell,
Constantinople,
C – O – N – S – T – A – N – T – I – N – O – P – L – E.
Constantinople,
It’s as easy to say as saying your A – B – C.
C – O – N – S – T – A – N – T – I – N – O – P – L – E,
Show your flock now try your luck and sing it loud with me,
Constantinople.
C – O – N – S – T – A – N – T – I – N – O – P – L – E.
C – O – N com – S – T – A – N – T – I – N tense – O – P – L – E
Ah hah hah hah, Harry, what is this city your talking about,
What is this city I’m talking about?
Yes?
Constantinople.
Ah how do you spell it?
How do I spell Constantinople?
Yes.
Huh, I guess I’m talking about Rome.
Ah what a lad your spelling’s bad, I’ll give you your alphabetty.
A – B – C – D – E – F – G.
H – I – J – K – L – M – N.
O – P – Q – R – S – T – U.
V – W – X – Y – Zee,
Etcetera.
It should not be so hard to spell correctly,
Since I made you learn your alphabetty.
Constantinople.

Lyrics of “Paul Whiteman Orchestra – Constantinople” 

Success of the song “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”

Song of The Four Lads ranked number 10 in music chart of Billboard Magazine. It is stated on website of the band that the relevant song received “gold record” due to the sales of the related single.

The song was included in sketch of the famous comedian of that period, Jack Benny in his radio program on February 21, 1954 after it was on the charts for three months.

A band called There Might Be Giants sang the claimed song again in 1990. Their single was a very successful performance as well. Later on, the same song was performed by other singers.  

When did the name of İstanbul change?

The Twitter user, Zerden claimed on Twitter that the letters and documents which contain “Constantinople” name were sent back by PTT when the new name of the city, “İstanbul” began to be written on the formal documents. However, no evidence supporting this claim has been found. It is claimed that as per Turkish Postal Service Law published in the Official Gazette on March 28, 1930, the letters and documents which have “Constantinople” name were returned by PTT. Nevertheless, such law cannot be found in the Official Gazette dated March 28, 1930.

It is suggested on the web site of Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture that “Constantinople” name continued to appear on maps of Western countries until the 1960’s. The Ottomans used “Konstantiniye” as the name of the city after their conquest of the city in 1453. On the other hand, the name “İstanbul” was used in Cedid Atlas published in 1803. Similarly, “İstanbul is the capital of the Ottoman Empire” is written in the second article of the Ottoman Constitution dated 1876.

As is seen in a map of Cedid Atlas found from the archive of the US Congress as well, “İstanbul Boğazı” (Bosphorus) is used. This phrase indicates the use of “İstanbul” as the name of the city.

A mail which can be found on internet and was sent in 1921 contains both names “Stamboul” and “Constantinople.”

The usage of both names of the city (former name and the common name used by the Ottomans) can be seen on a letter sent from Germany.

After the Latin alphabet was accepted with the entry of Law no. 1353 on the Adoption and Application of the Turkish Alphabet into effect on November 1, 1928, “İstanbul” in Latin letters started to be used in official documents.

Consequently, the claim that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk made The Four Lads write the song “Istanbul (not Constantinople)” is false. Lyrics and composition of the song belongs to Jimmy Kennedy and Nat Simon, respectively. Besides, the song was first released in 1953. The song of Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, named “Constantinople” which led to confusion was first introduced in 1928. It is written in inner face of an album of The Four Lads released in 1991 that the song “Istanbul (not Constantinople)” was made in response to the song “Constantinople” which was recorded in 1928. That is to say, there is no connection between both songs and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Sources

Discogs, Brief information about Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Pianomanslc, Lyrics of the claimed song

Vikipedi, Information about the claimed song

YouTube, Istanbul (Not Constantinople) - The Four Lads, May 25, 2013

Discogs, Information regarding Columbia Records

LOC Blog, Composers and musicians on blog page of American Congress

Catalog LOC, Online catalog archive of American Congress

Personal web page of Juddy Harris

Amazon, Information about the album of The Four Lads released in 1991

YouTube, “Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra - C-O-N-S-T-A-N-T-I-N-O-P-L-E”, July 30, 2013

Web site of The Four Lads male singing quartet

YouTube, Audio record of Jack Benny’s Program dated February 21, 1954, December 15, 2015

Sephardic Studies, When the name of İstanbul change?

Wikipedia, Information about different names of İstanbul

The Ottoman Constitution, 1876

Translation: Sonay Ün