Hail to the Redskins

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The Redskins are one of only three NFL teams to have a marching band.

"Hail to the Redskins" is the fight song for the National Football League team the Washington Redskins. It was written sometime between 1937 and 1938 and was performed for the first time on August 17, 1938. The music was composed by the Redskins team band leader, Barnee Breeskin, and the lyrics were written by Corinne Griffith, the wife of Redskins founder and owner George Preston Marshall.[1]

History[edit]

In 1937, Marshall moved the Redskins from Boston to Washington. With this move and the introduction of his team to the nation's capital, Marshall commissioned a 110 member band to provide the new fans with the "pomp and circumstance" and "pageantry" of a public victory parade. Marshall stated that he wanted his team and their games to emulate the spectacle of the Roman Gladiators at the Coliseum. He also wanted to incorporate elements of the college football experience into the pro game. He oufitted the band with $25,000 worth of uniforms and instruments and asked the band leader, Barnee Breeskin, to compose a fight song worthy of such a team of gladiators and warriors.

The original lyrics were written to reflect the native American warrior imagery of the team as the Redskins. The lyrics were later reworked to be less offensive to contemporary sensibilities. Nonetheless, the fight song is one of the oldest football fight songs in all of American professional football.

Hail to the Redskins is the second oldest fight song for a professional American football team; the oldest fight song is "Go! You Packers! Go!", composed in 1931. During the 1938 season the Redskins played their new fight song for fans in attendance at the games as they played the Philadelphia Eagles, the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Cleveland Rams, the New York Giants, the Detroit Lions, and the Chicago Bears football teams.

In 1974, Washington, D.C. singer Beryl Middleton recorded "Hail to the Redskins", purportedly backed up by members of the Redskins Singers. Barnee Breeskin declared this the finest recording of his song.[2]

The most widely recognized recording, which as of 2013 is still in use at Redskins home games, features the Redskin Show Orchestra and the Redskins Singers. The music was arranged and conducted by the orchestra's longtime leader Sam "Sammy" Schreiber, the Redskins Singers were directed by Don Cichty and William "Billy" Ball and it was recorded at JRB Sound Studios in Washington DC.

Lyrics[edit]

Hail to the Redskins!

Hail Victory!

Braves on the Warpath!

Fight for old D.C.!

Run or pass and score -- We want a lot more!

Beat 'em, Swamp 'em,

Touchdown! -- Let the points soar!

Fight on, fight on 'Til you have won

Sons of Wash-ing-ton. Rah!, Rah!, Rah!

Hail to the Redskins!

Hail Victory!

Braves on the Warpath!

Fight for old D.C.!


The previous lyrics were:

Hail to the Redskins!

Hail, victory!

Braves on the warpath!

Fight for Old D.C.!

Scalp 'em, swamp 'um -- We will take 'um big score

Read 'um, Weep 'um,

Touchdown! -- We want heap more

Fight on, fight on, Till you have won

Sons of Wash-ing-ton. Rah!, Rah!, Rah!

Changes to the lyrics[edit]

References to Dixie[edit]

The music was taken from the song "Jesus Loves Me". The song's original first stanza is often mistakenly thought to have ended with the line "Fight for old Dixie", but in fact this line was only used between 1959 and 1961, as a glance at contemporary game day programs will verify. Each of these programs printed the lyrics, and "Old D.C." can be seen in all years except 1959 through 1961. The original version of the song also closed to the open of the well known southern folk song, "Dixie". This phrase has since been replaced with "Fight for ol' D.C.!"

Dixie refers to the southern United States and the Dixie reference may seem confusing to those unfamiliar with the history of the NFL. The team is south of the Mason-Dixon line, and except for a brief foray into Dallas in 1952, there were no NFL teams anywhere in the southern United States until the 1960s. Marshall aggressively marketed his Redskins as the South's team and built a significant fan base there.

Dallas Cowboys controversy[edit]

When the NFL began considering expansion to Texas, Marshall strongly opposed the move, as he had enjoyed a monopoly in the South for three decades (apart from the one-year appearance of the Dallas Texans in 1952). Potential owner Clint Murchison, who was trying to bring the NFL to Dallas, bought the rights to "Hail to the Redskins" from a disgruntled Breeskin and threatened to prevent Marshall from playing it at games. Marshall agreed to back Murchison's bid, Murchison gave him back the rights to the song, and the Dallas Cowboys were born.[3]

Native American stereotypes[edit]

The original lyrics also perpetuated stereotypes of Native Americans. The second stanza of the original version exhorted the team to "scalp" their opponents, and invoked more stereotypes with lines like "we want heap more!" Those phrases have since been replaced with standard football play references like "run or pass and score, we want a lot more".

Despite these changes, some Native American groups still take offense to the lyrics in their present form. First, the song references the team name, Redskins. There has been considerable debate over whether the term "redskin" is a racial slur against Native Americans. Second, the line "braves on the warpath" is another alleged stereotype, similar to the removed "scalping" reference. Both phrases also refer back to the team's origin in Boston, as the team was named after the Boston Braves.

The updated version is seen as less offensive. It remains one of the most popular and well-known fight songs in the NFL.[citation needed]

Other usage[edit]

The LG Twins of the Korean Baseball Organization use the tune of "Hail to the Redskins" in their own fight song.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mooshil, Maria (2006-12-01). "10 more things to know about Bears fight song". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2013-04-09. 
  2. ^ "The Redskins Blog". Blog.redskins.com. Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  3. ^ "ESPN.com - Page2 - A rivalry for a song ... and chicken feed". Espn.go.com. Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "LG Twins Fight Song". Youtube.com. Retrieved 16 December 2014. 

External links[edit]