America the Beautiful

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America the Beautiful
America the Beautiful 1.jpg

Patriotic song of the United States
Also known as"Pikes Peak" (lyrics)
"Materna" (music)
Lyrics Katharine Lee Bates, 1895
Music Samuel A. Ward, 1883
Published1910 by Oliver Ditson & Co.
Audio sample
"America the Beautiful" as performed by the United States Navy Band

"America the Beautiful" is a patriotic American song. Its lyrics were written by Katharine Lee Bates and its music was composed by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward at Grace Episcopal Church in Newark, New Jersey. [1] The two never met. [2]

Contents

Bates wrote the words as a poem originally entitled "Pikes Peak". It was first published in the Fourth of July 1895 edition of the church periodical, The Congregationalist. It was at that time that the poem was first entitled "America".

Ward had initially composed the song's melody in 1882 to accompany lyrics to "Materna", basis of the hymn, "O Mother dear, Jerusalem", though the hymn was not first published until 1892. [3] The combination of Ward's melody and Bates's poem was first entitled "America the Beautiful" in 1910. The song is one of the most popular of the many U.S. patriotic songs. [4]

History

Commemoration plaque atop Pikes Peak in July 1999 Americathebeautiful.jpg
Commemoration plaque atop Pikes Peak in July 1999

In 1893, at the age of 33, Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, had taken a train trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to teach at Colorado College. [5] Several of the sights on her trip inspired her, and they found their way into her poem, including the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the "White City" with its promise of the future contained within its gleaming white buildings; [6] the wheat fields of America's heartland Kansas, through which her train was riding on July 16; and the majestic view of the Great Plains from high atop Pikes Peak. [7] [8]

On the pinnacle of that mountain, the words of the poem started to come to her, and she wrote them down upon returning to her hotel room at the original Antlers Hotel. The poem was initially published two years later in The Congregationalist to commemorate the Fourth of July. It quickly caught the public's fancy. An amended version was published in 1904.[ citation needed ] [9]

Historical marker at Grace Church in Newark where Samuel Ward worked as organist, and wrote and perfected the tune "Materna" that is used for "America the Beautiful". Grace Church Newark plaque.jpg
Historical marker at Grace Church in Newark where Samuel Ward worked as organist, and wrote and perfected the tune "Materna" that is used for "America the Beautiful".

The first known melody written for the song was sent in by Silas Pratt when the poem was published in The Congregationalist. By 1900, at least 75 different melodies had been written. [10] A hymn tune composed in 1882 by Samuel A. Ward, the organist and choir director at Grace Church, Newark, was generally considered the best music as early as 1910 and is still the popular tune today. Just as Bates had been inspired to write her poem, Ward, too, was inspired. The tune came to him while he was on a ferryboat trip from Coney Island back to his home in New York City after a leisurely summer day and he immediately wrote it down. He composed the tune for the old hymn "O Mother Dear, Jerusalem", retitling the work "Materna". Ward's music combined with Bates's poem were first published together in 1910 and titled "America the Beautiful". [11]

Ward died in 1903, not knowing the national stature his music would attain. Bates was more fortunate, since the song's popularity was well established by the time of her death in 1929. [10] It is included in songbooks in many religious congregations in the United States. [12]

At various times in the more than one hundred years that have elapsed since the song was written, particularly during the John F. Kennedy administration, there have been efforts to give "America the Beautiful" legal status either as a national hymn or as a national anthem equal to, or in place of, "The Star-Spangled Banner", but so far this has not succeeded. Proponents prefer "America the Beautiful" for various reasons, saying it is easier to sing, more melodic, and more adaptable to new orchestrations while still remaining as easily recognizable as "The Star-Spangled Banner". Some prefer "America the Beautiful" over "The Star-Spangled Banner" due to the latter's war-oriented imagery; others prefer "The Star-Spangled Banner" for the same reason. While that national dichotomy has stymied any effort at changing the tradition of the national anthem, "America the Beautiful" continues to be held in high esteem by a large number of Americans, and was even being considered before 1931 as a candidate to become the national anthem of the United States. [13]

Lyrics

America. A Poem for July 4.

Original poem (1893) [14]

O great for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!

O great for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!

O great for glory-tale
Of liberating strife,
When once or twice, for man's avail,
Men lavished precious life!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain,
The banner of the free!

O great for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!

1904 version [15]
 
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
 
 
 
 

O great 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.

O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife,
When valiantly for man's avail
Men lavished precious life.
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine.

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.

1911 version [16]
 
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!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

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,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

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!

Katharine Lee Bates, ca. 1880-1890 Portrait of Katharine Lee Bates, ca. 1880-1890.jpg
Katharine Lee Bates, ca. 1880–1890

Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his album 101 Gang Songs (1961).

Frank Sinatra recorded the song with Nelson Riddle during the sessions for The Concert Sinatra in February 1963, for a projected 45 single release. The 45 was not commercially issued however, but the song was later added as a bonus track to the enhanced 2012 CD release of The Concert Sinatra .

In 1976, while the United States celebrated its bicentennial, a soulful version popularized by Ray Charles peaked at number 98 on the US R&B chart. [17] [lower-alpha 1] His version was traditionally played on New Year's Eve in Times Square following the ball drop.

Three different renditions of the song have entered the Hot Country Songs charts. The first was by Charlie Rich, which went to number 22 in 1976. [18] A second, by Mickey Newbury, peaked at number 82 in 1980. [19] An all-star version of "America the Beautiful" performed by country singers Trace Adkins, Sherrié Austin, Billy Dean, Vince Gill, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Toby Keith, Brenda Lee, Lonestar, Lyle Lovett, Lila McCann, Lorrie Morgan, Jamie O'Neal, The Oak Ridge Boys, Collin Raye, Kenny Rogers, Keith Urban and Phil Vassar reached number 58 in July 2001. The song re-entered the chart following the September 11 attacks. [20]

Popularity of the song increased greatly following the September 11 attacks; at some sporting events it was sung in addition to the traditional singing of the national anthem. During the first taping of the Late Show with David Letterman following the attacks, CBS newsman Dan Rather cried briefly as he quoted the fourth verse. [21]

For Super Bowl XLVIII, The Coca-Cola Company aired a multilingual version of the song, sung in several different languages. The commercial received some criticism on social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, and from some conservatives, such as Glenn Beck. [22] [23] [24] Despite the controversies, Coca-Cola later reused the Super Bowl ad during Super Bowl LI, the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics and 2016 Summer Olympics and for patriotic holidays. [25] [26]

Jennifer Lopez performed the song at President Joe Biden's inauguration on January 20, 2021 as the second half of a medley with "This Land Is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie. [27]

Idioms

"From sea to shining sea", originally used in the charters of some of the English Colonies in North America, is an American idiom meaning "from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean" (or vice versa). Other songs that have used this phrase include the American patriotic song "God Bless the U.S.A." and Schoolhouse Rock's "Elbow Room". The phrase and the song are also the namesake of the Shining Sea Bikeway, a bike path in Bates's hometown of Falmouth, Massachusetts. The phrase is similar to the Latin phrase " A Mari Usque Ad Mare " ("From sea to sea"), which is the official motto of Canada. [28]

"Purple mountain majesties" refers to the shade of the Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which inspired Bates to write the poem. [29]

In 2003, Tori Amos appropriated the phrase "for amber waves of grain" to create a personification for her song "Amber Waves". Amos imagines Amber Waves as an exotic dancer, like the character of the same name portrayed by Julianne Moore in Boogie Nights .

Books

Lynn Sherr's 2001 book America the Beautiful discusses the origins of the song and the backgrounds of its authors in depth. The book points out that the poem has the same meter as that of "Auld Lang Syne"; the songs can be sung interchangeably. Additionally, Sherr discusses the evolution of the lyrics, for instance, changes to the original third verse written by Bates. [15]

Melinda M. Ponder, in her 2017 biography Katharine Lee Bates: From Sea to Shining Sea, [8] draws heavily on Bates's diaries and letters to trace the history of the poem and its place in American culture.

See also

Notes

  1. Ray Charles' 1972 recording of this song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2005.

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References

  1. "'America the Beautiful' began in Newark | Di Ionno". March 17, 2016. Archived from the original on October 11, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  2. Andy Pease, "'America the Beautiful' by Katharine Lee Bates and Samuel Augustus Ward, arr. Carmen Dragon" Archived February 22, 2018, at the Wayback Machine , Wind Band Literature, July 1, 2014; accessed 2019-08-17.
  3. McKim, LindaJo (1993). The Presbyterian Hymnal Companion. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press. p. 379. ISBN   9780664251802 . Retrieved June 22, 2012. (McKim notes that Ward once mentioned in a postcard that the hymn had been composed in 1882, however).
  4. "Materna (O Mother Dear, Jerusalem) / Samuel Augustus Ward [hymnal]:Print Material Full Description: Performing Arts Encyclopedia, Library of Congress". Lcweb2.loc.gov. October 30, 2007. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011. Retrieved August 20, 2011.
  5. Cooney, Beth (November 9, 2001). "A Stirring Story Behind 'America the Beautiful'". Los Angeles Times. ISSN   0458-3035. Archived from the original on January 25, 2017. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
  6. "No. 1238: 1893 Exhibition". www.uh.edu. Archived from the original on January 18, 2017. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
  7. "America the Beautiful". The Library of Congress. Archived from the original on July 5, 2017. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
  8. 1 2 Ponder, Melinda M. (2017). Katharine Lee Bates: From Sea to Shining Sea. Chicago, IL: Windy City Publishers. ISBN   9781941478479.
  9. Baxter, Sylvester (October 31, 1918). "America the Beautiful". The Journal of Education. 88 (16 (2202)): 428–429. doi:10.1177/002205741808801607. JSTOR   42767143. S2CID   220810886.
  10. 1 2 Ace Collins (August 30, 2009). Stories Behind the Hymns That Inspire America: Songs That Unite Our Nation. Zondervan. ISBN   978-0-310-86685-5. Archived from the original on May 8, 2018.
  11. Collins, Ace (2003). Songs Sung Red, White, and Blue: The Stories Behind America's Best-Loved Patriotic Songs. Harper. p. 19. ISBN   978-0-06-051304-7.
  12. "America the Beautiful". Hymnary.org. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  13. Estrella, Espie (September 2, 2018). "Who Wrote "America the Beautiful"? The History of America's Unofficial National Anthem". thoughtco.com. ThoughtCo. Retrieved November 14, 2018. Many consider "America the Beautiful" to be the unofficial national anthem of the United States. In fact, it was one of the songs being considered as a U.S. national anthem before "Star Spangled Banner" was officially chosen. The song is often played during formal ceremonies or at the opening of important events...Many artists have recorded their own renditions of this patriotic song, including Elvis Presley and Mariah Carey. In September 1972, Ray Charles appeared on The Dick Cavett Show singing his version of "America the Beautiful."
  14. Bates, Katherine Lee (1897). "America. A Poem for July 4". The American Kitchen Magazine. 7: 151. Retrieved May 13, 2016.
  15. 1 2 Sherr, Lynn (2001). America the Beautiful: The Stirring True Story Behind Our Nation's Favorite Song. New York: PublicAffairs. p. 78. ISBN   978-1-58648-085-1 . Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  16. Bates, Katharine Lee (1911). America the Beautiful and Other Poems. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, pp. 3–4.
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  18. Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 350. ISBN   978-0-89820-177-2.
  19. Whitburn, p. 297
  20. Whitburn, p. 24
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  23. "Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad: Can you believe this reaction?". USA TODAY. Archived from the original on April 23, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  24. Poniewozik, James (February 2, 2014). "Coca-Cola's "It's Beautiful" Super Bowl Ad Brings Out Some Ugly Americans". Time. Archived from the original on December 17, 2014.
  25. "It's Beautiful" Commercial Archived November 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine by the Coca-Cola Company Press Center. February 5, 2017
  26. "Coca-Cola ran a Super Bowl commercial about diversity and inclusion and people are mad". SB Nation. February 5, 2017. Archived from the original on February 6, 2017. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  27. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s2DViOOElA
  28. Martin, Gary. "From sea to shining sea". Phrases.org. Archived from the original on July 18, 2014. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  29. http://www.americanheritage.org/Elementary_Extraction_15-America_the_Beautiful_TX.pdf Archived September 4, 2012, at the Wayback Machine