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America – The Making Of A Nation :: Music Of A Nation

When it comes to music that makes Americans feel patriotic, the first thing that comes to mind is the national anthem. But there are so many other songs about the United States. Many great musicians have captured in song what this country means to them. Songs like “Ol’ Man River,” “Oh Shenandoah,” and “This Land Is My Land.” These simple tunes capture something as profound as any great speech or sermon about one’s love for his or her country.

Anthem For The Nation

A lawyer named Francis Scott Key went aboard a British ship during the War of 1812 to arrange the release of a prisoner. Key ended up being held on board the ship in Baltimore Harbor while the battle raged on shore; the American flag flying high above Fort Henry was his only sign that the Americans had not been defeated. As long as the flag flew, the Americans still had hope. The next morning, the British surrendered.

That day, Key wrote a poem called “The Defense of Fort McHenry.” He set the poem to the tune of an old English drinking song. Key’s song was later renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner.” In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson said the song should be played at all official occasions. In 1931, it officially became the national anthem.

The Star-Spangled Banner

O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming.
And the Rockets’ red glare, the Bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our Flag was still there.
O! say does that star spangled Banner yet wave,
O’er the Land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Yankee Doodle

The first real American hit song supposedly originated in Britain. “Yankee Doodle” made fun of the unsophisticated American doodles (a “doodle” is a fool or simpleton), who tried to follow the London fashion for elaborate hairstyles called macaronis. During the Revolution, Americans turned the song into a mocking rejection of British society. Since then, it’s become one of the most popular American folk songs in history.

America The Beautiful

Pretty much everyone knows this song. It’s been sung for years, and used in many popular plays, movies and TV shows. The words were written by Katherine Lee Bates, and the melody by Samuel Ward.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

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