American Songbook

Commonly (and uncommonly) cited candidates to replace 'The Star-Spangled Banner'

| May / June 2006


'America the Beautiful,' lyrics by Katharine Lee Bates, to music by Samuel Augustus Ward. This love song to America's charms has been the chief competitor of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' for nearly 100 years. But its popularity, at least in schools, appears to be fading.

'God Bless America,' lyrics and music by Irving Berlin. A favorite after 9/11, this song needs a singer like Kate Smith to make it inspiring. In the hands of mere mortals, it sounds bland.

'This Land Is Your Land,' lyrics and music by Woody Guthrie (with musical inspiration from the Carter family). Written in response to the smugness of 'God Bless America,' this song lacks the weight of a national anthem yet still embodies the ideals of a large swath of America.

'We Shall Overcome,' a gospel song, origins unclear. A mesmerizing and powerful work that has already led the country through adversity and continues to sustain Americans in difficult times.

Long Shots

Tod Lewark
2/24/2009 10:55:47 AM

How about "When You and I Were Young, Maggie?"