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America The Beautiful

by

Ray Charles



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

The lyrics were written sometime in the 1890's by a Wellesley College English professor named Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote it as a poem. In 1926, the poem was combined with the music of a hymn written by Samuel Ward called "Materna" for a contest by the National Federation of Music Clubs.
Many Americans feel this should be their National Anthem, rather than the "The Star Spangled Banner."
A lot of artists have recorded this, including Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, but Charles' version is the most famous.
Ray Charles
Ray Charles Artistfacts
More Ray Charles songs
More songs with names of countries in the title
More songs inspired by places
More songs about pride in your heritage

Comments (19):

Thanks songfacts.com . For a man void of physical vision, Ray Charles' spiritual, mental, and humanitarian vision, opened the eyes of millions with good, weak, or no physical vision, with his love of country and song. I hope and pray that the 'voice of the people' and the 'listening ear of our congress' will produce a positive atmosphere for a public dialogue of where in society should this beautiful, heart-touching, piece of art be found. Indeed! this is an awesome, noteworthy, modern, musical achievement that the late Mr. Ray Charles should be forever honored.
- sam, rialto, CA
The Ray Charles version of "America the Beautiful" is excellent as is Barbara Streisand's. Check out www.americathebeautiful.us Not that is better. I's just different. Kind of an apples and oranges thing.
- Jimmy, Boulder Creek, CA
No...i think that our natinal anthem should be GodBless The Usa
- sara, lancaster, CA
I have heard that Woody Guthrie wrote "This Land is your Land" because he felt this song was usign language not easily understandable by ordinary folks, and wanted to give them the meaning in a form anyone could understand.
- Andy, Halesowen, West Midlands, United Kingdom
Even though I an not particularly religious, I also liked "God Bless America" and thought that would make a good anthem too.
- Andy, Halesowen, West Midlands, United Kingdom
The complete words: ***(1)*** 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. ***(2)*** O beautiful for pilgrim feet whose stern impassioned stress, / A thoroughfare for freedom beat, across the wilderness! / America, America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw, / Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law! ***(3)*** O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, / Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life! / America, America! May God thy gold refine, / 'Til all success be nobleness, and ev'ry gain divine! ***(4)*** O beautiful for patriot dream, that sees beyond the years, / Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears! / America, America! God shed his grace on thee, / And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.
- Fred, Laurel, MD
Songfacts - "Many Americans feel this should be their National Anthem, rather than the Star Spangled Banner." -- In fact, I remember hearing long ago that A-t-B was in competition with S-S-B (can anyone confirm or refute this?) when the nat. anthem was being decided, by resolution of Congress, signed by the president Mar. 3, 1931. Personally, I would have been happy with either of the two. The reasons for AtB are obvious enough. As for SSB, OK, the language there is rather stilted by modern standards, but, hey, so is AtB! SSB is a story of the successful defense of Ft. McHenry in Baltimore, under siege by the British in the War of 1812 (1812-14). The Crown had just lost us colonies 3 decades earlier, and dearly wanted that loss reversed. They were somewhat the sore losers, kidnapping and impressing unwary Americans at sea into their military, and they thought they could beat us this time. Which they might have done, had we not shown the resolve that we display at our best. So SSB illustrates the heroic side of patriotism; AtB, the peaceful (1st & 4th verses), and some of the heroic (2nd & 3rd verses) side. I might be willing to advocate that we have dual national anthems -- hey, if the Dutch can have 2 national capitals, why not?! *** Speaking of choosing a National Anthem, since we hadn't yet chosen one at the time, when the first modern Olympic Games were held, in Athens, Greece in 1896, and an American won some event, the band didn't know what to play at first. Somehow they settled on Hail, Columbia, which served this purpose at the Olympics (and had elsewhere, on occasion, going back to Washington's time, but so had SSB, going back to around its conception in the Madison administration) until we officially chose the Star Spangled Banner.
- Fred, Laurel, MD
theoriginaldreamer(TOD?)/Richmond,VA - Are you by any chance a Mark Levin fan? Reason I ask is, he's on the radio M-F from 6-8pm ET and he plays this 10 or 15 min. before the end of his show every Fri. He also plays the service songs of all the armed services whenever he feels like they need moral support -- Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and he adds the Merchant Marine (I knew they had a service academy, but they're not military except in wartime, and it didn't occur to me that they had a service song). *** Also, "A Pittance Of Time" was written by Terry Kelly, of Halifax, N.S. On his website - http://www.terry-kelly.com/pittance/pittance_en.htm - are the song, the story behind the song, and the lyrics.
- Fred, Laurel, MD
Comparing this great song to "God Bless the USA", as one rather uninformed person did in an earlier comment, is like comparing "Ave Maria" to "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead". "America the Beautiful" is hands down the best patriotic song ever written, and Ray Charles' version is the definitive performance of it.
- Sam, Lincoln, NE
I chuffing hate this song.
- Pasky, Lincolnshire, England
I don't care if the only part of you that's patriotic is the tip of your pinky finger, this song, and in particular this rendition has to stir something inside of you.

To complete the list:
National Anthem song at Super Bowl XV
1973 (I think) Gordon Sinclair recording

now there's another guy out there who's also Canadian -- wrote 'A Pittance of Time'.
Both the Red Skelton reading and 'The Duke' recording of the 'Pledge of Allegiance'.
A military band playing their branch's respective melodic tones..
'God Bless the U.S.A.'

But getting back to Mr. Charles version of 'America, The Beautiful' and you happen to hear it when you are driving, I don't know about you but I have to pull over. There are only two other songs that do that to me: 'O Holy Night' and 'Ave Maria'. Whew
- theoriginaldreamer, richmond, VA
I think Congress should "retire" this song in honor of Charles. There would be no penalty for someone singing it; it would be primarily symbolic.
- Ralph, Newton, MA
I was blessed to see Ray Charles in concert. He didn't perfom this song, but he was just spectacular nevertheless! Hearing his rendition of "America, The Beautiful" never fails to move me to tears. You can't miss how grateful he was to be an American, given all the obstacles he had to overcome. Simply the best recording, ever, of this lovely tune.
- Dae, Sumter, SC
Would the national anthem be ray charles singing?
- Johnny, Los Angeles, CA
Jay (and others) I too was moved nearly to tears by this song. But my experience (I'm a bit older than you) was during the Watergate hearings. The DJ saying "We need to get back to this view of America" did it. Try singing along with that on your mind without crying!
- Jerry, Brooklyn, NY
On September 13, 2001, the radio station I listened to went back to playing music after nearly two days of news reports. This was the first song I heard that morning after getting into my car, and it almost moved me to tears. Charles begins with what is traditionally the third verse: "Oh beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life." Given the events of two days earlier, it was incredibly powerful and almost eerily poignant. I have only rarely heard this song -- it is not the type of song that is typically played on the radio -- but I feel that Charles' rendition is the definitive version of the song, and it provided for me a musical memory I will never forget.
- Jay, New York, NY
Each time I hear this rendition it almost moves me to tears. Thank you for posting it!
- Steve, Schenectady, NY
IT-IS-GREAT
- Adriana, Monterrey, Mexico
The Great Ray Chales passed away today 6/10/04
- Dave, Pomeroy, OH
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