Vernacular

Just in time for today’s celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence back on July 4, 1776, a new book titled “Songs of America” became available.

Although the book features old songs, it was delivered overnight, Monday, by the 21st century’s speedy systems.

Combining their knowledge and talents in their respective fields, historian Jon Meacham and famed musician Tim McGraw assembled the unique book that features the songs that Americans sang of freedom and good life benefits through the years.

The authors hope that the book will unite Americans, who are frequently disheartened by strongly voiced divisions of opinions in modern times.

Revelations include:

• The $405.90 cost, in 1813, of the original “Star-Spangled Banner” plus a smaller flag to be flown over Fort McHenry during stormy weather.

• FDR’s initial intention to make “Anchors Aweigh” rather than “Happy Days Are Here Again” his campaign song.

• There were concerns among White House staffers and Washington National Cathedral officials in the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that the lyrics to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” were “excessively bellicose” for an upcoming service memorializing the victims. An unfazed George W. Bush declared “defiance is good” and the congregation sang the anthem.

Meacham wrote that “the music of the day reflected the hour’s complex emotions.” This is one of the themes of “Songs of America,” that at moments of national distress, music often unites us more profoundly than mere words or images.

“History isn’t just something we read,” he wrote. “It’s also something we hear.”

Appropriately, today’s celebration is in tune for:

“I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy/A Yankee Doodle, do or die/A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam’s/Born on the Fourth of July.”

One of the most catchy melodies ever written is still stored in our brains:

“Over there, over there/Send the word, send the word over there/That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming/The drums rum-tumming everywhere/So prepare, say a prayer/Send the word, send the word to beware/We’ll be over, we’re coming over/And we won’t come back till it’s over, over there.”

And who can forget this tune?

“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!”

On the coming of World War II, Irving Berlin said, “Songs make history and history makes songs.”

There’s a famous quote from Winston Churchill, who called the 1940 Battle of Britain his nation’s “finest hour.”

He said, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Bruce Springsteen said, “Of the many tragic images of that day, the picture I couldn’t let go of was of the emergency workers going up the stairs as others rushed down to safety … If you love life or any part of it, the depth of their sacrifice is unthinkable and incomprehensible.”  

One of the most famous first responders, Luis Alvarez, died over the weekend.

The publication is an American delight and it awakens many memories from the years we have been alive in this land of the free.

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