My Country, 'Tis Of Thee

Album: America the Beautiful (1831)

Songfacts®:

  • This patriotic hymn, which is also known as "America," became the first American National Anthem in 1831 before the adoption of The Star Spangled Banner. The words were written by Baptist clergyman Samuel Francis Smith (1808-1895), and for the melody he used the music of the British national anthem God Save the King. Smith claimed to have written the verses in 1832, but his memory must have been amiss as they are known to have been printed a year earlier for a children's Fourth of July celebration in Boston.
  • Smith wrote the verses when still a theological student, after his friend, the renowned hymn composer Lowell Mason, asked him to translate or adapt the lyrics in some German school songbooks. One melody to a German patriotic hymn in particular caught his attention. Instead of translating it, Smith decided to write an American patriotic hymn, so he sat down and in thirty minutes had written this song, to go along with the tune. He had no inkling of the melody's associations with the British national anthem, as he had never heard "God Save the King." Smith did not stop writing. He wrote over 150 other hymns and in 1843 teamed with Baron Stow to compile a Baptist hymnal, The Psalmist.
  • Ani Difranco wrote a parody of this, called "Tis of Thee," which points out flaws seen in American society by the singer, particularly vast social and economic inequalities.
  • Aretha Franklin sang the song on January 20, 2009 at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Ramones

RamonesFact or Fiction

A band so baffling, even their names were contrived. Check your score in the Ramones version of Fact or Fiction.

Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & PalmerSongwriter Interviews

Greg talks about writing songs of "universal truth" for King Crimson and ELP, and tells us about his most memorable stage moment (it involves fireworks).

Thomas Dolby

Thomas DolbySongwriter Interviews

He wrote "She Blinded Me With Science" so he could direct a video about a home for deranged scientists.

Jimmy Webb

Jimmy WebbSongwriter Interviews

Webb talks about his classic songs "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman" and "MacArthur Park."

Marvin Gaye

Marvin GayeFact or Fiction

Did Marvin try out with the Detroit Lions? Did he fake crazy to get out of military service? And what about the cross-dressing?

Country Song Titles

Country Song TitlesFact or Fiction

Country songs with titles so bizarre they can't possibly be real... or can they?