Patriotic Music in America

America’s patriotic music reflects the heart and soul of this great country we call home.

| Summer 2014

  • Archibald M Willard’s "Yankee Doodle," or the "Spirit of ‘76," is one of the most beloved patriotic paintings in America. While Willard originally sought to create a humorous depiction of parade musicians for the Revolutionary War’s centennial, he ultimately moved his subjects to the battlefield, and created this classic representation of American valor.
    Image courtesy Library of Congress
  • This sheet music cover to the "Star Spangled Banner" from the 1860s is both beautiful and fittingly regal.
    Photo courtesy Library of Congress
  • Lady Liberty proudly waves the American flag on this beautiful sheet music cover to the "Star Spangled Banner" from the late 19th century.
    Photo courtesy Library of Congress
  • This 1861 drawing depicts an elegantly dressed woman and her children singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the piano.
    Photo courtesy Library of Congress
  • Samuel Francis Smith, writer of the famous “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” resided in his Newton Centre, Massachusetts, homestead until his death in 1895.
    Photos courtesy Library of Congress
  • The “purple mountain majesties” behind this glimmering barn that proudly displays Old Glory is the quintessential American scene.
    Photo by
  • Closeup of American flag.
    Photo by Cunliffe

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The United States is a country rich in patriotic music — songs that are very much a part of our history and our development as a nation. They were born of great events that shaped our destiny, and the words flowed spontaneously from hearts and souls inspired by the events of the moment. What follows is a brief history of some of our nation’s most beloved tunes, which may very well inspire you to sing along this summer!

Let Freedom Ring

A young Baptist minister, Samuel Francis Smith, had just passed his 23rd birthday. He had been asked by a friend, Lowell Mason, the organist and minister of music at Park Street Church in Boston, to translate the lyrics in some German song books into English. One of the poems was “God Save Our Native Land,” which was set to a melody from Muzio Clementi’s Symphony No. 3.

Believing he could write something just as good to accompany this inspiring tune, Smith penned what would soon become one of the United States’ most beloved patriotic songs, “America”:

My country ‘tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing:
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountain side
Let freedom ring!

When he was moved to compose these iconic lyrics, he inadvertently chose the same tune the British sang with “God Save the King.” Because the American people had been vehemently opposed to anything British for quite some time, the tune hadn’t been sung in America for years. Smith himself said, “I had never heard it before.”

This coincidence was nothing to fret over, however, as the poem soon soared in popularity. Lowell Mason loved the poem so much he taught it to the children’s choir at his church, and it was sung publicly for the first time on July 4, 1832.



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