The Top Five Most Popular American Patriotic Songs of All Time
Americans love their country. They also love to sing about their country. American patriotic songs have a rich and colorful history. This history spans the centuries and ties the past to the present and citizen to citizen. No American has grown up without learning a few of these top American patriotic songs:
1) The Star Spangled Banner: No American patriotic song is dearer than this. Many Americans don’t realize that its author, Francis Scott Key, originally entitled his patriotic poem “Defence of Fort McHenry.” This is because it was based on his recollection of the bombing of Fort McHenry in Maryland during the War of 1812. Key saw in his mind’s eye the proud U.S. flag continuing to wave amidst the devastation in the wake of the bombing.
Key’s poem was eventually set to an already popular tune. The original poem has four stanzas, which are rarely sung today. The three additional stanzas are worth a reading though for the beautifully descriptive language which they contain.
2) My Country ‘Tis of Thee: This poem was first written by theological student Samuel Francis Smith in 1831. Smith had been asked by a friend to translate a German tune into English. This particular poem just happened to be set to the same tune as the British anthem “God Save the King/Queen.”
Smith got distracted from the task at hand, instead composing his own patriotic lyrics for the tune. The poem turned out to be “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” also sometimes referred to as “America.” It was debuted on July 4, 1832, sung by a group of children at an Independence Day celebration.
3) Stars and Stripes Forever: This familiar march was written by John Philip Sousa in 1896. Sousa was a talented musician and United States Marine. He served in the Corps from 1868-1875, and then again from 1880-1892, a career man to be sure.
His early days in the Marine Corps were spent as an apprentice musician. He honed his musical skills during his five year absence from the corps. He became conductor of the Marine Corps band during his second stint. It was after his departure from the corps that Sousa composed “Stars and Stripes Forever.” It was later adopted as the U.S.A.’s national march by an act of Congress.
4) America The Beautiful: This American patriotic song is so loved that it has been periodically proposed as a replacement for “The Star Spangled Banner” as national anthem. It hasn’t managed to knock it out of the running yet. Still, this beautifully descriptive poem, written by Katharine Lee Bates in 1895 remains almost as cherished.
The tune, composed by Samuel A. Ward, was originally written for another set of lyrics. A few years after its publishing, it was discovered to be a perfect fit for Bates’ tribute. The two have been inseparable ever since.
5) God Bless America: Irving Berlin was one of best-known and well-loved singers, song-writers, actors and directors in American history. He managed to achieve this status despite the fact that he was not born in the United States. Born in Russia (now Belarus,) Berlin immigrated to the U.S. as a young child. He established himself in the entertainment industry likewise at a young age.
He was widely known as fiercely loyal to the United States and devotedly patriotic. It was no surprise to anyone that he should spin out such a beautiful tribute to his adopted country in 1918. The song became an instant American classic when it was sung by Kate Smith in 1938.
All of these great American patriotic songs were written over a century ago. Their continued popularity today remains a testament to their untimely sentiments.
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