Patriotic song of the United States
|Also known as||"Pikes Peak" (lyrics)|
|Lyrics||Katharine Lee Bates, 1895|
|Music||Samuel A. Ward, 1883|
|Published||1910 by Oliver Ditson & Co.|
"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. The two never met.
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. At that time, the poem was 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. 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 American patriotic songs.
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. 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; the wheat fields of North 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.
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.
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. 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".
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. It is included in songbooks in many religious congregations in the United States.
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, while others object to the implicit support of slavery and racism in its third verse; others prefer "The Star-Spangled Banner" because of its war themes. 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.
1893 poem (original)
Elvis Presley performed it many times in concerts starting in 1976.
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.[a] 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. A second, by Mickey Newbury, peaked at number 82 in 1980. Aretha Franklin performed a rendition before an undisputed audience of 93,173 to open WrestleMania III, a performance meta-critic RJ City called "a lovely version". 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.
The song has been performed as part of the Indianapolis 500 pre-race ceremonies since 1991.
The US singer/songwriter Martin Sexton recorded a gospel-tinged version on his LP 'Black Sheep', released in 1996. <>
Popularity of the song increased greatly in the decades following 9/11; 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.
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. 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.
In 2016, American five-piece girl group Fifth Harmony performed a rendition to honor the United States women's national soccer team on defeating Japan 5–2 in the Final to win the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup last July at BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada before an undisputed AT&T Stadium audience of 101,763 to open WrestleMania 32 in Dallas, Texas.
In 2017, Jackie Evancho released Together We Stand, a disc containing three patriotic songs including "America the Beautiful". The song charted at No. 4 on Billboard's Classical Digital Song sales chart.
In 2023, Cécile McLorin Salvant performed the song at the US Open woman's final. In her rendition, Salvant notably skipped ahead to the lyrics of the second half of the second verse while singing the first verse (replacing "God shed His grace on thee..." with "God mend thine every flaw..." etc.). Jazz Critic Nate Chinen wrote the following day of the performance: "What does it mean for a singer such as Salvant to inhabit a platform like the US Open, and implore God to mend America’s every flaw? What does it mean, in the Year of Our Lord 2023, for a singer like Salvant to urge the nation to confirm thy soul in self-control, and find liberty in law? I’m not going to spell it out, but it means a lot."
"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.
"Purple mountain majesties" refers to the shade of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which inspired Bates to write the poem. The idiom inspired the Colorado Rockies to have purple as one of its team colors.
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.
|Discussion with Sherr on America the Beautiful, November 27, 2001, C-SPAN|
Lynn Sherr's 2001 book America the Beautiful: The Stirring True Story Behind Our Nations's Favorite Song 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.
Melinda M. Ponder, in her 2017 biography Katharine Lee Bates: From Sea to Shining Sea, draws heavily on Bates's diaries and letters to trace the history of the poem and its place in American culture.
- Ray Charles' 1972 recording of this song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2005.
- "'America the Beautiful' began in Newark | Di Ionno". March 17, 2016. Archived from the original on October 11, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
- 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.
- McKim, LindaJo (1993). The Presbyterian Hymnal Companion. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press. p. 379. ISBN 978-0664251802. Retrieved June 22, 2012. (McKim notes that Ward once mentioned in a postcard that the hymn had been composed in 1882, however).
- "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.
- 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.
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- "America the Beautiful". The Library of Congress. Archived from the original on July 5, 2017. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
- Ponder, Melinda M. (2017). Katharine Lee Bates: From Sea to Shining Sea. Chicago, IL: Windy City Publishers. ISBN 9781941478479.
- "America the Beautiful". Library of Congress. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- "America the Beautiful". Hymnary.org. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
- Estrella, Espie (September 2, 2018). "Who Wrote "America the Beautiful"? The History of America's Unofficial National Anthem". thoughtco.com. ThoughtCo. Archived from the original on November 14, 2018. 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."
- Bates, Katherine Lee (1897). "America. A Poem for July 4". The American Kitchen Magazine. 7: 151. Retrieved May 13, 2016.
- 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.
- Bates, Katharine Lee (1911). America the Beautiful and Other Poems. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company. pp. 3–4 – via archive.org.
- "Ray Charles Chart History: R&B/Hip-Hop Songs". Billboard. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
- Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 350. ISBN 978-0-89820-177-2.
- Whitburn, p. 297
- rj, city. "Wrestlemania 1-5 | National Anthem Review". YouTube.
- Whitburn, p. 24
- Barbra Streisand "America the Beautiful", retrieved January 18, 2023
- Zacharek, Stephanie (September 18, 2001). "Dan Rather's tears; Journalists don't cry on camera. That was before last week". Salon.com. Archived from the original on May 22, 2009.
- "Coca Cola's Super Bowl ad angers conservatives". NY Daily News. Archived from the original on May 16, 2016. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
- "Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad: Can you believe this reaction?". USA Today. Archived from the original on April 23, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
- 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.
- "'It's Beautiful' Commercial". Coca-Cola Company Press Center. February 5, 2017. Archived from the original on November 3, 2016.
- "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.
- "FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015™: USA–Japan". www.fifa.com. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
- "FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015™". www.fifa.com. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
- 2015 Women's World Cup Final: USA 5–2 Japan, retrieved May 21, 2022
- "WrestleMania 32 results: Roman Reigns dethrones The King of Kings". WWE. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
- "Pop Sensation Fifth Harmony to Perform at WrestleMania". corporate.wwe.com. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
- Fifth Harmony sings 'America the Beautiful': WrestleMania 32, April 3, 2016, retrieved May 21, 2022
- "Check Out Jackie Evancho Rehearsing for Her Presidential Inauguration Gig". Billboard. January 20, 2017.
- "Search results: Jackie Evancho". Billboardbiz. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Jennifer Lopez – 'This Land Is Your Land' & 'America, The Beautiful' – Inauguration 2021 Performance". YouTube.
- Martin, Gary. "From sea to shining sea". Phrases.org. Archived from the original on July 18, 2014. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
- "America the Beautiful" (PDF). www.americanheritage.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 4, 2012.
- Harding, Thomas. "Rockies outfitted with one shade of purple," MLB.com, Monday, January 30, 2017. Retrieved May 26, 2022.
- MP3 and RealAudio recordings available at the United States Library of Congress
- Free sheet music of America the Beautiful from Cantorion.org
- America the Beautiful Park Archived October 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine in Colorado Springs named for Katharine Lee Bates' words.
- Archival collection of America the Beautiful lantern slides from the 1930s.
- Another free sheet music