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July 4 celebratory historic USA Independence Day Music

Revolutionary and later works in chronological order

By Keith A. Forbes. A disabled author and journalist, he lives with his wife in the harbour and writes and webmasters this website as an activist for the elderly, disabled and vulnerable. Items below are from their monumental tome Anniversaries and Great Moments in Classical Music History. It features the major events that happened each day world-wide in First Performances or Premieres of major musical works of art. For this web file excerpts for July 4, Independence Day in the USA are shown. They show Independence Day-related musical works. Some are well known but many are no longer familiar to modern audiences and are rarely if ever played, not even at July 4 concerts, by American orchestras.

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British and American relations before the Revolutionary War

Details of the troubled history (but not the musical history).

Loyalist Songs of the American Revolution

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How it began in 1776

Conflict between the colonies and England was already a year old when the colonies convened a Continental Congress in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776. In a June 7 session in the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall), Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented a resolution with the famous words: "Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved." Lee's words were the impetus for the drafting of a formal Declaration of Independence, although the resolution was not followed up on immediately. On June 11, consideration of the resolution was postponed by a vote of seven colonies to five, with New York abstaining. However, a Committee of Five was appointed to draft a statement presenting to the world the colonies' case for independence. 

1776 Congress Declaration

Members of the Committee included John Adams of Massachusetts; Roger Sherman of Connecticut; Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania; Robert R. Livingston of New York; and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. The task of drafting the actual document fell on Jefferson. On July 1, 1776, the Continental Congress reconvened, and on the following day, the Lee Resolution for independence was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies, New York not voting.

Discussions of Jefferson's Declaration of Independence resulted in some minor changes, but the spirit of the document was unchanged. The process of revision continued through all of July 3 and into the late afternoon of July 4, when the Declaration was officially adopted. Of the 13 colonies, nine voted in favor of the Declaration, two -- Pennsylvania and South Carolina -- voted No, Delaware was undecided and New York abstained.

On July 4, 1776, the 13 colonies claimed their independence from England, an event which eventually led to the formation of the United States. Each year on the fourth of July, also known as Independence Day, Americans celebrate this historic event. John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence. It is said that John Hancock's signed his name "with a great flourish" so England's "King George can read that without spectacles!" Today, the original copy of the Declaration is housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and July 4 has been designated a national holiday to commemorate the day the United States laid down its claim to be a free and independent nation.

At the first celebration in 1777, fireworks lit up the sky in celebration, despite the US still in the midst of the Revolutionary War. Philadelphians marked the first anniversary of American independence with a spontaneous celebration, which is described in a letter by John Adams to his daughter, Abigail. According to the Philadelphia Evening Post: “The evening was closed with the ring of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated... Everything was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal.” This first celebration featured the first stars and stripes, as the Continental Congress passed a resolution creating America’s first official flag the month before the anniversary. The resolution stated: “Resolved, that the Flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

1781. The state of Massachusetts was the first to recognise the Fourth of July as a holiday, with Massachusetts legislature called for an official state celebration. The legislature is said to recognise: “the anniversary of the independence of the United States of America”.

1776 Congress meets to declare Indedendence1814. However, observing Independence Day only became commonplace after the War of 1812. Events thereafter, such as ground-breaking ceremonies for the Erie Canal and Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, were often scheduled to coincide with July 4 festivities. 

1826. Both Thomas Jefferson and his fellow Declaration writer John Adams died on the very same day: July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration.

1831. James Munroe became the third president to die on July 4, with the New York Evening Post writing at the time: “Three of the four presidents who have left the scene of their usefulness and glory expired on the anniversary of the national birthday, a day which of all others, had it been permitted them to choose [they] would probably had selected for the termination of their careers.”

1870. July 4 celebrations did not become a federal holiday until this year when Congress voted to make it so.

1874. Birth on July 4 of future president Calvin Coolidge. He was serving as vice president when President Warren G. Harding died suddenly on August 3, 1923, making Mr Coolidge the 30th US president.

1941. The first time the July 4 holiday became a paid one for federal employees. 

Today, July 4  firework displays are held across the United States in celebration. The largest of these is in New York City, where the Macy’s show, includes more than 75,000 individual shells, lasts more than 25 minutes and takes 55 crew members 10 days to set up. Taking place over the NYC East River, the Macy’s show has been lighting the skies for more than 40 years and costs the clothing retailer an estimated $6 million each time.

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American Patriotic July 4 songs or compositions from earliest days to now

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Yankee Doodle

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

British soldiers1748. First American song. Hear it at On Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada, New Englanders under the command of militia General William Pepperrell, stormed the French fortress of Louisburg - and captured it. But, on October 18, 1748 - to the disgust of American colonial soldiers who did all the fighting - the British returned the fort and Cape Breton to the French as part of the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. On July 26, 1758 Louisburg was re-captured by a British force of mostly English troops. They were under the command of General Jeffrey Amhurst and Major General James Wolfe (a a year before he was killed in battle during the conquest of Quebec). There were 9,000 British Army troops and 500 American Colonials at Louisburg. But this second action was not admired by the British. Either British attitudes had changed considerably or a less capable or trained American force had been sent. The British were so disgusted that they and their Canadian allies concocted a wicked version - not the original but a special Cape Breton version of what became ultimately a venerated American song. General Wolfe himself reflected the condescending attitude of the British soldiers towards their American Colonial brethren in his letter to Amherst of June 19, 1758. In it, he said that the Yankees are far better for ranging and scouting than either work or vigilance and that they were the dirtiest, most contemptible, cowardly dogs you can conceive.

Interestingly, the song was written much earlier - perhaps even as early as 1740 - by a Dr. Shuckburgh. He was an American by residence, not by birth. Born in Britain, he emigrated to America in 1735 while still a young man. He lived mostly in New England (when not serving on the frontier) nearly all his adult life, raised a family in America, spent most of his Army service on the frontier, was acknowledged by his contemporaries as an Indian expert - and served in his later years as Sir William Johnson's Secretary for Indian Affairs. He could not possibly have written any of the known early stanzas of Yankee Doodle if had had not been very thoroughly Americanized. Of course, this assumes that he wrote the original verses, not necessarily the music as well.

This military version is: Brother Ephraim sold his Cow and bought him a Commission. And then he went to Canada to fight for the Nation. But when Ephraim he came home he proved an arrant Coward.  He wouldn't fight the Frenchmen there, for fear of being devoured. Aminadab is just come Home, his eyes all greased with bacon. And all the news that he could tell Is Cape Breton is taken.

The tune was also played by the band of the British troops as they marched out of Boston, Massachusetts. On April 19 1775, under Lord Percy, they mockingly played the song for the first known time publicly by a British or American military band. But in later going to the relief of Colonel Francis Smith's regiment, some were cut to pieces by American militia as Smith retreated from Lexington and Concord, in the first serious clash of the American Revolution. When the British retreated, they in turn were mocked by the music of the tune. (Variations on this song were written much later by the distinguished 19th century Belgian composer Henri Vieuxtemps). 

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My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free

1759. American Song. By the American composer, lawyer, poet and patriot Francis Hopkinson, a friend of George Washington and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It premiered on July 4, 1759 to great applause. He is credited as the first composer of American songs. Discover more details about this song and listen to a fine audio vocal and piano excerpt at Note the date, before the Declaration of Independence. It became famous afterwards.

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

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King George IIIThe Disappointment, or The Force of Incredulity

1762. Ballad Opera. by the American composer "Andrew Barton" (Thomas Forrest). 

It was supposed to have been first performed on April 20, 1762 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, two years after King George III, of the House of Hanover, was crowned in London.

But at the very last minute there was a withdrawal, for fear of offending. 

If performed as expected, it would have been the first American comic opera on the American stage. Forrest's work is a satirical comedy in two acts with a prologue and epilog. 

It was scheduled to be performed by the American Company in what was then America's capital. 

But it was withdrawn when the management of the theater learned that it satirized people from Philadelphia. 

It was inspired by "the infrequency of dramatic compositions in America, the necessity of contributing to the entertainment of the city, and to put a stop (if possible) to the foolish and pernicious practice of searching after suppressed hidden treasures.  

The satire was directed at the seekers of the treasures supposed to have been buried by the pirate Blackbeard

The opera contained eighteen songs and was arranged with seven scenes in the first act and five in the second.

Even the composer's nom-de-plume of "Andrew Barton" was satirical as it alluded to the old British piracy ballad "Sir Andrew Barton." 

Astonishingly, this work did not get a full production in America until October 29, 1976, when a reconstructed score, with a specially composed overture and three instrumental interludes, by the American composer Samuel Adler, orchestrated for a full Baroque ensemble, was produced at the Library of Congress in Washington, as part of the Bicentennial celebrations of the United States of America. 

But the work claimed a double distinction as the first American theatrical work ever to have a reference to - and include the music of - the song Yankee Doodle referred to earlier. 

Image: King George III.

Note the year again - 1767. It was eight years and one day before the song had its first public outing in a military version not intended by its writer.

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Li Napoletani in America

1768. A comic opera by the Italian composer Niccolo Piccini, first performed at the Teatro Fiorentini, in Naples, Italy, on June 10, 1768.

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

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The Liberty Song. In Freedom We Are Born

1768. Hear a nice version of this song at 

First patriotic American song. By the American lyricists John Mein and John Fleming after John Dickinson. The latter occupies a prominent position in the early history of the Revolution. He was a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1764; of the Congress of 1765, and also of the first Continental Congress, which met in Carpenter's Hall at Philadelphia on the fourth of September, 1774. Of the important and eloquent state papers of that Congress, he wrote the principal part. Though so little a republican at the commencement of the Revolutionary difficulties, as to oppose the Declaration of Independence, because be doubted the policy of Congress, "without some preclusory trials of our strength," he fully proved the sincerity of his attachment to the liberties of his country by marching to Elizabethtown, at the head of his regiment, a short time after the declaration, to repel the invading enemy. In November, 1767, the first of a series of communications written by him, entitled "Letters from a farmer in Pennsylvania, to the inhabitants of the British Colonies," appeared in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. Dickinson died February 14, 1808. 

Anniversaries and Great Moments in Classical Music History

Set to the British military tune Hearts of Oak by the 18th century British composer William Boyce. Published in the Boston Gazette of July 18, 1768.

Come join band in hand, brave Americans all, And rouse your bold hearts at fair Liberty's call. No tyrannous acts, shall suppress your just claim. Or stain with dishonor America's name. In freedom we're born, and in freedom we'll live. Our purses are ready, Steady, Friends, steady. Not as slaves, but as freemen our money we'll give. Our worthy forefathers - let's give them a cheer - to climates unknown did courageously steer. Thro' oceans to deserts, for freedom they came. And, dying, bequeath'd us their freedom and fame.

Their generous bosoms all dangers despis'd. So highly, so wisely, their birthrights they priz'd. We'll keep what they gave, we will piously keep. Nor frustrate their toils on the land or the deep. The Tree, their own hands had to Liberty rear'd, They lived to behold growing strong and rever'd. With transport then cried: " Now our wishes we gain. For our children shall gather the fruits of our pain." How sweet are the labors that freemen endure. That they shall enjoy all the profit, secure. No more such sweet labors Americans know, if Britons shall reap what Americans sow. 

Swarms of placemen and pensioners' soon will appear, like locusts deforming the charms of the year. Suns vainly will rise, showers vainly descend, If we are to drudge for what others shall spend. Then join hand in hand brave Americans all. By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall. In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed. For Heaven approves of each generous deed. All ages shall speak with amaze and applause. Of the courage we'll show in support of our laws.

To die we can bear - but to serve we disdain. For shame is to freemen more dreadful than pain. This bumper I crown for our sovereign's health. And this for Britannia's glory and wealth. That wealth and that glory immortal may be. If she is but just, and we are but free. In freedom we're born, &c"

© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

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Boston Massacre

1770. March 5. A street brawl between angry colonists and British Army soldiers based in Boston began when the crowd threw snowballs, ice, oyster shells and more at and wounded a British sentry guarding the Boston Customs House. Soldiers were summoned and opened fire on the mob, killing five and wounding six.  This was the first spark than created the fire that fanned the flames to rebellion.

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1772. Also known as L'Americano Incivilito and L'Americano Ingentilito. An intermezzo or farsetta, again by the Italian composer Niccolo Piccini, first performed at the Teatro Capranica, in Rome, Italy, on February 22, 1772.

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Boston Tea Party

1773. December 16.  A political protest that occured at Griffin's Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts. British-American colonists wre frustrated and angry at Britain for imposing taxation. including a tax on tea, without representation. They dumped 342 chests of tea, imported from India via Britain by the British East India Company. As they did so, wild and discordant music from loud instruments brought by various members of the crowd that rapidly gathered, filled the air. The event had been coming for some time. Britain, deep in debt in the 1760s, legislated the UK's Stamp Act of 1765 which, with the Townshend Act of 1767 taxed British colonists in the USA, Asia, Caribbean, Bermuda, etc on everything they imported from the mother country. In those days, the country mostly depended on imports. 

Boston Tea Party

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The Girl I Left Behind Me, Or The American Volunteer

Hear a version of this song at

1776. Probably of Irish origin, popular in the original 13 American colonies before the American Revolution. As The Girl I Left Behind Me, it was sung during the Revolution by American militiamen during campaigns, as reminders of their wives or sweethearts. During the American Civil War, a new set of words was adapted to the melody and it became known as The American Volunteer. It is still employed as the graduating class song at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

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An American Revolutionary song, by the American composer William Billings, written in 1778. Although the melody is hymnal, it was adapted to the ringing words Let Tyrants Shake Their Iron Rod. In this mode, it became a hit of the day. Hear a nice version of it at by the Canadian Brass.

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

America Independent - or The Temple Of Minerva

1781. Premiered July 4, 1781. Oratorical entertainment, one of the first American operas. Lyrics were by the American composer, lawyer, poet and patriot Francis Hopkinson. Music was 'borrowed' from other composers. 

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

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Chorus Sung Before General Washington

1789. A choral work, for three voices, pianoforte and harpsichord, written in 1789 by the British born American naturalized composer Alexander Reinagle. It was one of his musical tributes to his adopted New World homeland and sung in Philadelphia to honor, and in the presence of, General Washington, to whose adopted step-daughter, Nellie Custis, Reinagle taught music.

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

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The Battle of Trenton

1793. For piano. One of the many pro American Revolutionary War pieces by the British born American naturalized composer, singer and publisher Benjamin Carr.

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes.

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Tammany, or The Indian Chief

1794. The first serious opera produced in the United States. It was published in 1794, by the British born American naturalized composer and publisher James Hewitt.

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

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La Famille Americaine (The American Family)

1796. An opera-comique, written in 1796 by the French composer Nicolas-Marie Dalayrac, as his 13th in the genre. It was one of the first works by any European based composer to focus specifically on life in the young and vibrant new republic of the United States of America in the New World that had secured its political freedom from Britain.

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

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Begin Unto My God

1784. British Anthem of Thanksgiving, for the official British end of the American War of Independence. Written in 1784 by the British composer and organist Edmund Ayrton (1734-1808), a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in London in 1764. It was sung in St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England, on June 29,1784 at the official British Thanksgiving Service to mark the end of the War of American Independence. It became his most notable work.

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes.

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America, Commerce And Freedom!

Circa 1789. American patriotic song. By the British born, American naturalized, Philadelphia based composer Alexander Reinagle. It was included in his Collection of 32 Favorite Songs, in 2 volumes.

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

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The Fourth Of July

1796. Piano sonata by the British born American naturalized composer James Hewitt. It premiered on July 4, 1796.

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Mrs. Madison's Minuet

1796. A chamber work for pianoforte and harpsichord, circa 1796, by the British born, American naturalized, Philadelphia based composer Alexander Reinagle. It was in honor of prominent socialite and music patroness Mrs. Dolly Madison (wife of James Madison, later 4th President of the United States of America) who commissioned the work.


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Columbus, Or The Discovery Of America

1797. Melodrama, composed in 1796-1797. By the British born, American naturalized, Philadelphia based composer Alexander Reinagle. It was one of his musical tributes to his adopted New World homeland. It premiered in Philadelphia on January 30, 1797.

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Monody on The Death Of Washington

1799. For solo voices, chorus, chamber orchestra. To commemorate and mourn the death of his patron, General and retired President George Washington. By the British born, American naturalized, Philadelphia based composer Alexander Reinagle. The work premiered in Philadelphia on December 23, 1799, two weeks after Washington's death and was received with acclaim. Unfortunately, it is no longer extant.

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Jefferson's March

circa 1801. A march, for military band, in honor of Thomas Jefferson, who took office in 1801 as the 3rd President of the United States. By the British born, American naturalized, Philadelphia based composer Alexander Reinagle.

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Independence Day, Star Spanged BannerThe Star Spangled Banner

Hear it at

1779. National anthem since 1831.  In its first life, it was sung to the tune of To Anacreon in Heaven, then the official drinking song, popular at the time even in America, of a London, England based organization known as the Anacreontic Society. The music is by the British composer John Stafford Smith. The lyrics were originally by Ralph Tomlinson, a London lawyer, then the President of the Anacreontic Society. The revised patriotic words are by the American lawyer and patriot Francis Scott Key (after the American lawyer, patriot, statesman, poet and composer Francis Hopkinson). 

In the early morning of September 14, 1814, the 35 year old American lawyer and poet Francis Scott Key, of Carroll County, Maryland, was absent from his legal practice in Georgetown, Washington, DC. On that morning, the British Fleet (which had begun its invading journey earlier from the British mid Atlantic colony of Bermuda) was in the Chesapeake Bay off Baltimore, after the successful sortie on Washington, DC. British forces had entered the city, burned the public buildings and stores and during their planned retreat back to their ships on the Pawtuxent River, had taken William Beanes, a physician of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, as a prisoner.

Francis Scott Key, as an attorney, was persuaded by friends of Beanes to negotiate his release. With Colonel J. S. Skinner, a United States government agent for the exchange of prisoners, Key boarded a sloop in Baltimore Harbor to go out to meet the British fleet. They were received courteously by the British and the release of Beanes was agreed. 

But because the attack on Baltimore had been discussed in the presence of the American visitors, with British troops landed to begin their assault, Key, his client Beanes and Skinner were detained on the British ship to prevent them from communicating intelligence to the Americans in the city. During the night of September 13 to morning, Key remained on deck, watching the British bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry through the mist and drizzle that partially obscured the fort.

Frances Scott Key was inspired to write, in these conditions of acute national and personal distress, the now immortal words of the beautiful American national anthem.

At daybreak on September 14 he wrote emotionally in patriotic fervor on the back of an envelope of the sight of the stripes and stars of his nation's extra large flag still flying defiantly over the fort. When the British fleet withdrew without being able to take the fort, the American detainees were released to go ashore. Francis Scott Key went to a hotel in Baltimore, where he made a more legible copy of his emotional poem. The next day, he visited the Baltimore home of Judge and Mrs. J. H. Nicholson, relatives of his wife, to show them the copy.

The Nicholsons had handbills made quickly by the Baltimore based printers established as a subsidiary of Carr's Musical Repository, founded originally in 1793 in Philadelphia, which branched out to Baltimore and New York. The printing house was owned by the British born American naturalized composer, singer and publisher Benjamin Carr, who later sold the New York branch to the British born American naturalized composer and publisher James Hewitt. (It was Hewitt who wrote the patriotic The Battle of Trenton for piano in 1792, plus the first serious opera produced in the United States, Tammany, or The Indian Chief, in 1794 and the piano sonata The Fourth of July in 1796. Hewitt had left Britain for America in 1792 at the age of 22. Carr, 2 years older, did likewise in 1793 (followed later by his brother and father).

The actual first printing by Carr's Musical Repository was handled personally by James Carr, co owner, with his brother Benjamin. Those handbills so produced, published by the Nicholsons with Francis Scott Key's poem, were titled The Defense of Fort McHenry.

John Stafford SmithOn September 21, 1814, the newspaper Baltimore American published a story about how a "gentleman" had chanced to write the verses during the attack - and quoted the verses verbatim. No special title and no author's name were quoted, but it was marked, Tune: Anacreon in Heaven.

Four weeks later (on October 19, 1814) it was sung publicly for the first time, at the Halliday Theater in Baltimore, then producing the play Count Benyowski. The announcement read: "After the play, Mr. Harding will sing a much admired new song, written by a gentleman of Maryland, in commemoration of the gallant defense of Fort Mc'Henry, called, The Star Spangled Banner."

It was received by the theater audience with acclaim. But with anti British sentiment then prevailing in America, the original lyrics were scrapped in favor of two American versions, the first of which (the version Francis Scott Key undoubtedly had in mind) was by the statesman, lawyer, poet, patriot and composer Francis Hopkinson. (A later version, under the title of Adams and Liberty, by the American patriot Robert Treat Paine, Jr., also circulated). However, it has been established and confirmed that the composer of the original melody was the British 18th century London based composer and musician John Stafford Smith (see image, right), a leading member of the Anacreontic Society, who composed To Anacreon in Heaven for that organization.

He was born on March 30, 1750, and died on September 21, 1836. His song was first published in 1779-1780 by Longman & Broderip of 26 Cheapside, London. The first edition stated it was "Sung at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand." There is a report, which cannot be confirmed, that Smith himself did not drink, or was a tippler only in moderation - and wrote mischievously the high notes of his melody as a test to see whether his singing drinking friends were too drunk to reach and sustain them. These high notes remain today as a challenge to any singer.

Interestingly for American historians and music lovers, one-time captain of engineers in the French Army and later composer Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, or de L'Isle (1760-1836), composer and lyricist in 1792 of the French National Anthem La Marseillaise, wrote an undated autographed one page manuscript, as a French translation of an English poem of twelve lines headed: "Imitation from the English of Thy vain pursuit, fond youth, give over what more, alas! can Flavio do!" - with one three word correction in his hand.

With this rare manuscript is a printed copy, circa April 1917, of The Star Spangled Banner and La Marseillaise. The cover is printed in red, blue and black and is titled at the top "For all lovers of the allied Sister Republics France and America." This was obviously issued when the USA entered World War I. There is no explanation of how de Lisle's autographed manuscript came to be attached to this document, but these items were advertised as being for sale for $250 in issue number # 956 of 1992 of The Collector, an American magazine for autograph and historical collectors.

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The Tars Of Columbia (Columbia Triumphant: Perry's Victory)

1789. American patriotic song, commemorating the defeat of the British on Lake Erie in 1814 by Commodore Perry. By the prolific British born, American naturalized, Philadelphia based composer Alexander Reinagle. It was included in his Collection of 32 Favorite Songs, in the second of two volumes (the first bearing the date of 1789).

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Madison's March

1802. A march, for military band, in honor of James Madison, then Secretary of State in the Cabinet of President Thomas Jefferson (and from 1809 the 4th President of the United States of America). By the British born, American naturalized, Philadelphia based composer Alexander Reinagle.

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The Minstral's Return From The War

1825. July 4. Patriotic song. By the prominent British-born American-naturalized composer James Hewitt. It premiered on July 4, 1825.

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

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L'oncle D'amerique (The Uncle Of America)

1826. Vaudeville in 1 act, by the French composer Adolphe (Charles) Adam (of O Holy Night fame) with text by the famous French librettist Augustin-Eugene Scribe and Mazeres. It premiered on March 14, 1826. 

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

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America ("My Country 'tis of Thee")

1832. February. Patriotic Song. Originally written for piano, violin and choir. Now known most frequently by the longer title. Composed by the American Baptist clergyman and poet Samuel Francis Smith (1808-1895). The music is from an old German and British ("God Save the King") melody. His friend Lowell Mason had asked him to translate the lyrics in some German school songbooks or to write new lyrics. Rather than translating the lyrics from German, Smith wrote his own American patriotic hymn to the German and British Royal melody. Smith gave Mason the lyrics he had written and the song was first performed in public on July 4, 1831, at a children's Independence Day celebration at Park Street Church in Boston, Massachusetts. The song served as a de facto national anthem of the United States before the adoption of "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the official anthem in 1931. Hear it at

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

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Nearer My God To Thee

1850. A hymn, written in about 1850 by the American composer and teacher Lowell Mason. It became - and remains - a standard hymn in Christian churches around the world. It was the final fitting piece of music, played on deck with stoic appreciation of their fate, by members of the orchestra of the British ship Titanic, after she struck an iceberg and just before she sank in 1912, to calm the passengers still on board. The American composer Charles Ives quotes the melody in his Symphony Number 4 and other works, to evoke the spirit in which Lowell wrote it - the devotional atmosphere of old America.

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

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Bunker's Hill

1851. A thundering work for ten pianos, based on American tunes, by the American-born composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, the son of a cultured British Jewish businessman who settled in the USA. The original version of this work was known as The Seige Of Saragossa and it was written in Spain by the composer, during his 1851-1852 residence there, when he was the darling of the Spanish public and Queen Isabela II. It was a work for one of his famous Spanish "monster concerts." When Gottschalk returned to the USA in 1852, he replaced the Spanish tunes of The Seige Of Saragossa with American tunes and re-titled it Bunker's Hill, to commemorate the first American Revolutionary War battle (in actuality fought on Breed's Hill, near Boston's Bunker Hill) in June, 1775.

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© Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

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Columbia, The Gem Of The Ocean

Circa 1750. This patriotic American song, otherwise known in the 50 United States as the Red, White and Blue, was composed sometime in the middle of the 18th century, but no one knows for sure by whom. Hear it at sung by the Morman Tabernacle Choir.  An English actor, Thomas a Becket, claimed authorship, but could never give satisfactory proof. With equal patriotic fervour, it is known in Great Britain as Britannia, the Pride of the Ocean, or (also) the Red, White and Blue. With both nations having red, white and blue as the colors of their national flags and having equal claims for paternity, of the song, it remains today as both American and British.

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1859. A song with a haunting tune, that unintentionally but not exclusively become associated with the Confederate cause during the American Civil War. However, it was written by a Northerner, Daniel Decateur Emmet, of Ohio, and was published in 1859. Hear it at watch-v=ne-OeJKmWFA

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Battle Hymn Of The Republic

1862. The words were written by Julia Ward Howe in 1862, during the American Civil War, to the already-famous melody of Glory, Glory, Hallelulah! (the composer of which is unknown). Another set of words starts with the line John Brown's Body Lies A-Mouldering in the Grave. Here it at .

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Battle Cry Of Freedom

1862. An American Civil War ballad written by the American composer George Frederick Root in 1862, allegedly inspired after reading a proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. After being pressed on a customer to sing at a patriotic rally, it made history in 1863 as the rallying song in the Union forces. President Lincoln wrote in gratitude to the composer, declaring that the song had done more for the Union's cause than 100 generals and 1,000 orators. Root's other Civil War-time song hits included The Vacant Chair (1861); Kingdom Coming (1862); Just Before the Battle, Mother; Marching Through Georgia (1865); and Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! (1865).

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The Marines' Hymn

1859. "From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli." So-called because of its references to the landing of United States Marines in North Africa, during the war against the Barbary pirates after the American-British War of 1812-14 (long before their arrival in Mexico City in 1847). However, the melody is from the very successful French operetta Genevieve De Brabant, by credited to the German-born composer Jacques Offenbach, who resided in Paris. The melody premiered in France in 1859 and was published in 1868.

No one knows for sure whether this piece from the operetta was actually composed by Offenbach, or whether he "borrowed" it from another source. But given his talents and capacity to produce sparkling or catchy melodies, he probably did so either before the operetta or specifically for it). All we know for sure is that the un copyrighted sheet music edition of the U.S. Marine Corps Publicity Bureau in 1918 attributed the text - not the music - to an unidentified Marine officer during the Mexican war. How they came to be attached to the Offenbach melody is still a mystery. Or put another way, how they were probably pirated from the composer and put into Marine Corps possession is also a mystery.

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American Centennial March

1876. Composed to commemorate the Centenary of the American Declaration of Independence. Written in February, 1876 by the internationally-famous German opera and other music composer Richard Wilhelm Wagner. It was an official American commission - for which he was paid $5,000. But later, problems occurred, to help explain why this melody is rarely played these days. Perhaps because Wagner was labeled as anti-Jewish. Also, his operas were said to have inspired Adolf Hitler. Anyway, this Centennial March has not been given the prominence it deserves.

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The Centennial Meditation Of Columbus

1876. A cantata, by the American composer Dudley Buck Jr. at the behest of German-born, American-naturalized musical missionary and orchestra leader Theodore Thomas. First performed in Philadelphia in 1876 for the Centenary of the American Declaration of Independence. Buck and poet Sidney Lanier (who supplied the text) collaborated on this work, 

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Te Deum

1892. A solemn hymn-song of thanksgiving, salutation and commemoration, written in 1892 to honor the 400th anniversary of the "discovery" of the New World in 1492 by Christopher Columbus, by the Czech composer Antonin Leopold Dvorak. He brought the work with him when he arrived in the United States in 1892 for his extended visit.

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American Flag

1892. A choral work, by the Czech composer Antonin Leopold Dvorak, written during his sojourn in the United States from 1892 to 1894.

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Symphony No. 9 In E-Minor ("From The New World")

1893. Correct title of the acclaimed "New World Symphony" also by Antonin Leopold Dvorak, written by him in 1892 and 1893 during his extended stay in the USA. Dvorak made it clear that the alternative title of "From the New World" was for a purpose -to convey in music, with appreciation, awe and gratitude to the USA, his "Impressions and Greetings from the New World." The work premiered at Carnegie Hall, New York City, on December 16, 1893.

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America The Beautiful

1893. July 4. Patriotic Song. With words by the American academic Katherine Lee Bates and music by the American composer Samuel Augustus Ward. Hear it at by Ray Charles. It premiered on July 4, 1893.

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The Stars And Stripes Forever

1897. March. Completed on December 25, 1897 by the celebrated American composer, violinist and bandmaster John Philip Sousa. He was the American-born son of a Spanish-born Portuguese father and Bavarian-born German mother both immigrants to the USA. This march was so successful that it earned Sousa some $300,000 - an enormous sum in his day. Mr Sousa wrote 135 marches in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and his most popular were The Washington Post (1889), The Stars and Stripes Forever (1896) and Semper Fidelis (1888) which has become the official march of the US Marines. The legendary composer said of his music: “Suddenly, I began to sense a rhythmic beat of a band playing within my brain. Throughout the whole tense voyage I had to take, that imaginary band continued to unfold the same themes, echoing and re-echoing the most distinct melody. I did not transfer a note of that music to paper while I was on the steamer, but when we reached the shore, I set down the measures that my brain-band had been playing for me, and not a note of it has ever changed.” Hear a version of it at 

American Eagle

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Semper Fidelis

1888. By American composer John Philip Sousa. A famous July 4 march. Official March of the United States Marine Corps. Hear a version of this by the President's Own Marching Band at .Sousa regarded it as his "most musical" march. 

Brass band

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American Quartet

1893. String Quartet in F Major, Opus 96, by the Czech composer Antonin Leopold Dvorak. Written during his sojourn in the United States, from 1892 to 1894.

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Break The News To Mother

1897. A sentimental ballad, with words and music by the American composer Charles K. Harris. This commemorates a badly wounded drummer boy in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War who, realizing he will never return home, whispers the words to a Negro slave. It is not known whether such a historical event actually happened, but the ballad became very popular during the Spanish-American War.

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Land Of Hope And Glory

1901. A march, used by many American high schools as a processional for graduation ceremonies - and undoubtedly assumed by many to be American in origin. In fact, it is a British march, written in 1901 by the British composer Sir Edward Elgar. Its proper title is Pomp and Circumstance March No.1, of the set of orchestral marches under that main title. It is the middle section of the march that was set to the words "Land of Hope and Glory." The title "Pomp and Circumstance" comes from Othello by William Shakespeare. Marches 1 and 2 premiered in Liverpool, England, on October 19, 1901.

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New England Idyls

1901-1902. Opus 62 of the American composer Edward MacDowell, for piano. This work is in 10 parts, namely 1. An Old Garden; 2. Mid-summer; 3. Mid-winter; 4. With Sweet Lavender; 5. In Deep Woods; 6. Indian Idyl; 7. To an Old White Pine; 8. From Puritan Days; 9. From a Log Cabin; 10. The Joy of Autumn.

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Three Places In New England

1903. One of the most important works in American music, by the American composer Charles Edward Ives The three places are St. Gauden's monument on Boston Common; Putnam's Camp in Redding, Connecticut, and the Housatonic at Stockbridge. The music is evocative of the American Civil War. Ives quotes fragments of popular American hymns and ballads. In 1930, Ives reduced the original score to suit a chamber orchestra, in accordance with the wishes of Nicolas Slonimsky, who premiered the revised version in New York on January 10, 1931, with his Chamber Orchestra of Boston. This reduction became the standard for all subsequent performances until the rediscovery of the original score for large orchestra, which was published in 1980, 26 years after the composer's death.

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Union And Liberty

1905. A choral work, for chorus and band or orchestra, Opus 60, by the American composer Horatio William Parker, commissioned for and performed at the inauguration of President Theodore Roosevelt.

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The Redskin, Or The Last Of His Race

1906. Incidental music, by the American composer Henry Franklin Belknap Gilbert, unfortunately now lost.

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American Dances

1906. An arrangement for piano duet, taken from his opera Uncle Remus, written in 1906 by the American composer Henry Franklin Belknap Gilbert.

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The Caissons Go Rolling Along

1907. A song composed by Edmund Gruber in 1907 for the Fifth United States Artillery in the Philippine Islands. The American composer, violinist and bandleader John Philip Sousa arranged it for band. Eventually, it became a semi-official march for the Artillery, then the US Army.

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1902. For orchestra. Opus 5, by the American composer Henry Franklin Belknap Gilbert. It was published in 1913 as Humoresque.

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You're a Grand Old Flag

1906. Traditional Song by George M. Cohan for his 1906 stage musical George Washington, Jr. The song was introduced to the public in the play's first act on opening night, February 6, 1906, in New York's Herald Square Theater. It was the first song from a musical to sell over a million copies of sheet music. This rendition is sung by James Cagney in Cohan's 1942 film biography, Yankee Doodle Dandy. The original lyric for this perennial George M. Cohan favorite came, as Cohan later explained, from an encounter he had with a Civil War veteran who fought at Gettysburg. The two men found themselves next to each other and Cohan noticed the vet held a carefully folded but ragged old flag. The man reportedly then turned to Cohan and said, "She's a grand old rag." Cohan thought it was a great line and originally named his tune "You're a Grand Old Rag." So many groups and individuals objected to calling the flag a "rag," however, that he "gave 'em what they wanted" and switched words, renaming the song "You're a Grand Old Flag."

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Four American Indian Songs

1909. (Including "From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water"). Music was originally from the Omaha and Winnebago Indian tribes, collected by the American composer Charles Wakefield Cadman and set to verses by his lyricist Nellie Richmond Eberhart.

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The Intimate Story Of Indian Tribal Life

1911. Subtitled "The Story of a Vanishing Race." A dramatic work, by the American composer Henry Franklin Belknap Gilbert, turned into 21 small orchestral pieces for lectures by E. S. Curtis. The source of Gilbert's Indian Scenes and Indian Sketches.

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A Rouse For Roosevelt

1912. Song, written in 1912 for July 4 by the American composer Henry Franklin Belknap Gilbert, with lyrics by G. L. Farwell.

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Thunderbird Suite

1913. For orchestra. Written in 1913 for July 4 from his experiences among the Indian tribes. By the American composer Charles Wakefield Cadman.

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Fourth Of July

1913. Symphonic work by the American composer Charles Edward Ives, in which he assembled a heterogeneous orchestra with a wildly dissonant climax representing the explosion of fireworks, so common in a Fourth of July celebration. In his memorandum on the work, in which he noted that it was pure program music - and pure abstract music - Ives added a quotation from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the 1884 literary masterpiece of the great American humorist and writer Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), whose pen name was Mark Twain: "You pays yer money and you gets yer choice."

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To Thee, America

1914. For chorus and orchestra; also for soprano, alto, tenor and bass. By the American composer Henry Franklin Belknap Gilbert.

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Give Me The Splendid Silent Sun

1914. Song, written for July 4, by the American composer Henry Franklin Belknap Gilbert, with lyrics by Whitman.

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Hail, California

1915. In honor of the Golden State, written in 1915, at the age of 80, by the French composer Charles Camille Saint-Saens and conducted by him personally at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition held in San Diego, where he was an official emissary of the Government of France.

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Over There

1917. A patriotic song, written by the American composer and lyricist George M. Cohan, shortly after the United States entered World War I against Germany. It sold more than 2 million copies of sheet music and a million phonograph records. The great tenor Enrico Caruso sang it for American troops. Cohan received the Congressional Gold Medal for it and it was featured in Cohan's movie biography, Yankee Doodle Dandy, filmed in 1942.

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The Yankee Doodle Boy

1918. A patriotic song, written by the American composer and lyricist George M. Cohan, who was born on July 4.

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God Bless America

1918. American patriotic song. See Written by Irving Berlin, for a show at Camp Yaphank, when he served in the US Army. It lay dormant until 1938, when the American soprano Kate Smith sang it on a radio program on Armistice Day. With expectations of another war, it created a lasting impression. During World War 2, it became an unofficial national anthem. On February 18, 1955, President Eisenhower presented Irving Berlin with a Gold Medal, in appreciation for his service to his country in writing it. Periodically, petitions are circulated to have this song replace The Star-Spangled Banner as the National Anthem. The tune can be more easily sung and the lyrics have a wider patriotic application. Also they contain no vindictive references to Great Britain, now one of America's allies, as do some of the words in Key's original version.

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More recent songs


Shown in alphabetical order

classical 19America. By Simon and Garfunkel. See Their 1968 narrative of lovers on a cross-country odyssey manages to capture America in its extremes—the soaring possibility and the crippling despair, the unmatched beauty and the barren emptiness.  The song's been used in various media and artistic contexts over the years, but was most recently—and maybe appropriately—the soundtrack to a Bernie Sanders campaign ad.

American Patrol. 1941. Glenn Miller. See 

Bald Eagle – Learning by Song 

Dancing in the USA - Bobby Susser

Eternal Flame – Skip West

God Bless the USA. See This sentimental but undeniably sincere ballad hits all the soft spots: supporting the troops, loving your neighbor, giving it up for religion. Adorned with a rousing chorus and uncontroversial feel-good message, it's become the go-to track for political conventions, military morale-boosting, and Six Flags laser light shows. The song's been re-released multiple times to coincide with various national events, including the death of Osama Bin Laden.  It has been played during every 4th of July fireworks display since 1984.

Halfway to Heaven (A 9/11 Tribute) – Hank Fellows

Happy Birthday U.S.A. – Hap Palmer

In the Constitution

It's A Long Way – Two of a Kind

One Heart, One Voice – Hank Fellows

On the 4th of July – Ben Stiefel

Pledge of Allegiance – Mrs. Music & W. L. A. Children's Choir

Red, White and Blue – Debbie Clement

Red, White and Blue – Two of a Kind

Shenandoah. Jimmie Rodgers, 1959. See 

Some Rights in this World – Two of a Kind

Take Me Home, Country Roads. His first and biggest hit pays loving tribute to the gorgeous landscape and easy-living style of the rural South. Name-checking the Blue Ridge Mountains, the entire state of West Virginia and of course, moonshine, the song makes a rosy case for the simple pleasures of home. Ironically, Denver's writing partner, Bill Danoff, wrote the lyrics purely out of imagination. He was a Massachusetts native and had never visited West Virginia.

Thank a Veteran

The 50 States and Capitals Song – Tim Pacific

The Original 13 Colonies Song – Tim Pacific

The Spirit of America – Hank Fellows

The Statue of Liberty – Kathleen Wiley

The United States in Order of Admission – Wendy Wiseman and Al Davis

Our Flag – Linda Brown/Dr. Thomas Moore


Wake Up in America – Grin Brigade

We Are A Patchwork Quilt – Two of a Kind We the People – Greta Pedersen

What He Wrote (Thomas Jefferson) – Jonathan Sprout

When Johnny Comes Marching Home – Traditional, Patrick S. Gilmore

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Other noteworthy American events that occured on July 4 include:

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