September 17, 2004

Goddamn it, I can't read the word "fifty" without hearing George W. Bush inside my brain deliberately mispronouncing it as "fitty"

Trip points me to a page that features the lyrics of the U.S.'s 50 official state songs. He recommends "Maryland My Maryland", which he describes as perhaps "the violentest state song ever" (sung to the tune of "O Tannenbaum"):

The despot's heel is on thy shore,
Maryland, My Maryland!
His torch is at thy temple door,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Gore! Flecking the streets! It's like a George Romero movie, for crying out loud. Except better, because it features the line "Huzza! She spurns the Northern scum!", which was conspicuously absent from Night of the Living Dead.

Alaska's state song stands out from the crowd because it is not actually about the state; it's about the flag. I guess they ran out of nice things to say about Alaska itself ("It has a sky...and lakes...and there was all that gold, huh?") and just threw up their hands.

The fellow who wrote Mississippi's song really liked the chorus he came up with. So much so that the song ended up featuring one verse and five choruses. Daring!

New York is really taking a hit to its urbane reputation with this song.

Connecticut, meanwhile, has taken an unusual tack vis-a-vis making sure as many people as possible actually remember its official song.

Is it just me, or do the last two verses of Louisiana's "You Are My Sunshine" seem kind of tacked on?

Anyway...there are lots of songs, and I've looked at less than half of them. If you find anything amusing, please add it to the comments. Or if you're sick of official state songs, you might try these instead.

Posted by Francis at 01:21 AM

Yeah, Kath and I found that site at one point, for, er, I'm sure it was a good reason. She was appalled to learn that her state's state song began with an ode to the state's beauty and then listed all the animal and human inhabitants of Colorado that have been killed off.

I do take a certain pride, however, in coming from the state with the best state song, hands down. (Heck, it not only beats pretty much every other state song, it steals their lunch money and calls them names while it's at it, or at least it would if it weren't so peaceful and nonviolent.)

(But go ahead, try to imagine Ray Charles singing "I'M FROM NEW JERSEY and I'm proud about it, I love the Garden State." Hoboken will steal your heart away? Sure, but Newark will steal your liver and kidneys and sell them on the black market.)

Posted by: Lance at September 17, 2004 03:51 AM

Louisiana uses "You Are My Sunshine." How bizarre.

And yeah, Colorado's song is kind of frightening.

Posted by: Kath at September 17, 2004 09:39 AM

I'm kind of surprised that "Hail Massachusetts" includes the phrase "live long and prosper" - I wish they said when it was written.

Posted by: rikchik at September 17, 2004 10:07 AM

Maryland, my home state *snif* -- I lived there for nearly half my life and never realized how comically violent our state song was. Why, it's right up there with "The Marseillaise," my favorite ultraviolent national song.

Kath, the reason "You Are My Sunshine" is the Louisiana state song is because it was written by Jimmie Davis, a popular former governor who used it as a campaign tool. The things I learn from being married to a Baton Rouge native ...

Posted by: debby at September 17, 2004 10:39 AM

Wow, I'd never read the lyrics to the Marseillaise. Yeah, those are pretty violent. "They are coming into your midst / To cut the throats of your sons and consorts." Eep! Read the rest here.

Posted by: Francis at September 17, 2004 10:47 AM

The main reason I got into this was stumbling across the fact that the state song of Maine is titled "State Song of Maine." Now that's poetic.

But there's so much wonderfulness to be found in these poems! The word "Illinois" being used about 8 billion times in its song (as Patrick said, it's like being hypnotized). The title "Here We Have Idaho." The utterly unsingable PA line "May your future be filled with honor everlasting as your history." And on and on.

It's amazing how similar so many of these songs are. Why 20th century verses use these horrible faux-poetic lines (o'er, tho, vales, etc), I'll never know. There are no skies that aren't azure, sunsets that aren't purple, rivers that aren't mighty. And so many "Hail, [state]" and "[State], My [State]" titles!

Yep -- thank goodness for Ray Charles, indeed.

Posted by: Trip at September 17, 2004 11:15 AM

My favorite state song story: My sister is an elementary ESL/social studies teacher and teaches a Colorado history unit every year. When she began teaching at her school in Glenwood Springs she found some old Colorado history materials left in a filing cabinet by a former social studies teacher. Among the materials was a typed list of “Colorado State Facts” which claimed that the state song was “Where the Concubines Grow.”

Posted by: Todd at September 17, 2004 11:36 AM

Actually, the site should be called "49 state songs"; I'm from Virginia, the only state not to have a state song. The former state song, "Carry me Back to Old Virginny", is now the "State Song Emeritus", due to it's racist lyrics ("There's where the old darke'ys heart am long'd to go, There's where I labored so hard for old massa" and so forth about how great it was to be a slave in Virginia). This is one of those compromises that satisfies no-one; why not just call a spade a spade and call it the "Official Racist State Song of Virginia"; calling it the "Official State Song Emeritus", still says "We have a racist heritage, and we're proud to preserve it by giving official recognition to the racist songs that form a part of that heritage".

The plan is to replace it by a new state song, but in 7 years, they haven't managed to agree on anything (some details are here. I assume supporters of the State Song Emeritus are also dragging their feet on selection of a new song.

Posted by: Andy at September 17, 2004 02:05 PM

I'm obliged to comment on the Oregon state song, that being where I'm from. I grew up only learning the first stanza at school, irked that they rhymed the state with "Forward and on and on," only to perpetuate the incorrect pronunciation. (You may as well make the second O a schwa.) Now I see the second stanza rhymes with "sun." Such indecisiveness!

Posted by: Maelstrom at September 17, 2004 08:44 PM

As a native Californian, let me just say that I never knew California *needed* a state song; I always thought it was "California Girls." Cough. However the music sounds like it was composed for a marching band, and sort of (is it just me) alludes to the Donner Party. Also, when is the Golden Gate 'ajar'?

Posted by: Lena at September 21, 2004 12:04 PM