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.

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