Bert Kapp

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The songs published under this name are not distinctive, but the status of Bert Kapp in the history of songwriting certainly is. This is a songwriting alias that was apparently used by both a husband…
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The songs published under this name are not distinctive, but the status of Bert Kapp in the history of songwriting certainly is. This is a songwriting alias that was apparently used by both a husband and wife, and unlike many such pseudonyms comes at least close to identifying someone who lived and breathed. In this case that was Bertha Kapp, member of one music business family or another most of her life. Her brother Jack Kapp was her employer at the Decca label in the '30s. After 1940 she became Bertha Davis following marriage to producer, publisher, and A&R man Joe Davis.

She was Davis' second wife named Bertha: the first had been the former Bertha Thalheimer. Both Berthas were written into publishing contracts as Bert Davis, but only Bertha Kapp enjoyed the status of publishing under her maiden name, sort of, as Bert Kapp. These arrangements in many cases came to a halt by the '80s: most reissue labels had redistributed these titles to their actual authors, if possible, or simply re-identified them as folk songs that publishers had been previously collecting on illegally.

Nonetheless, hats off -- or "chapeau!" as the French say -- to Kapp for the lyrics to "Let's Keep Our City Clean," a musical cornerstone of good citizenship recorded during a period in the late '40s when several governors had scored hits with original songs. "You wouldn't wear a dirty shirt, so let's not walk around in dirt" is a stanza that would be nice to hold someone accountable for. Yet tragically, nobody knows if these words were written by Mr. or Mrs. Davis or someone else entirely. None other than Lawrence Welk is responsible for the music on this record, however, no question about that. The song establishes Kapp's influence on other songwriters, a distinction that cannot be claimed by some songwriters who actually exist. "Keep Our Garden Clean" and "Keep Our Planet Clean" are examples of later songs following this particular songwriting map of Kapp.