My Country ‘tis of Thee Introduction
Most people know “My Country ‘tis of Thee.” It’s one of the first songs children learn in American schools. Easy to sing and filled with liberty and pilgrims, the song provides a popular little exercise in patriotism.
But did you know that the song owes its melody to the British national anthem, “God Save the Queen”? The British anthem predates the American song by almost a century. What’s up with that? Was American lyricist Samuel Francis Smith some sort of English wannabe? In copying the British anthem, was he merely suggesting that the United States and Great Britain were related? Or was he up to something more mean spirited? Was he trying to rub a little salt in British wounds by claiming the anthem just as Americans had claimed their freedom?
Or is there some other explanation for the rather unpatriotic origins of one of America’s most popular patriotic songs? You better come up with some answers, Mr. Smith.
About the Song
|Writer(s)||Samuel Francis Smith (words), Music—Traditional (taken from Great Britain’s “God Save the Queen/King”)|
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Smith sided with those who thought that Americans should imitate British and European examples, but others would insist on defining truly American forms of art. James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and Aaron Copland were among a large group of artists who argued that American writers should find their own voice and American musicians should draw exclusively from American genres, like the blues and country.