The Victors

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For the 1963 film of the same title, see The Victors (film).
Sheet Music Cover

"The Victors" is the fight song of the University of Michigan (UM). It was composed by UM student Louis Elbel in 1898 following the last-minute football victory over the University of Chicago that clinched a league championship.[1] John Philip Sousa is quoted as saying The Victors is "the greatest college fight song ever written."[2] First performed in public in 1899, "The Victors" did not catch on right away, and did not become Michigan's official fight song until many years later. At the time, the song "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" was considered to be the school song.[3]

An abbreviated version of the fight song, based on the final refrain, is played after the football team either scores or makes a big defensive play, such as an interception. Its full lyrics span several verses that run over two minutes long. The melody of the fight song is very similar to the trio section from "The Spirit of Liberty March", published seven months earlier by Tin Pan Alley composer George "Rosey" Rosenberg.[4] This song is often referred to as "Hail to the Victors," which is not correct.

The phrase "champions of the West" is often misunderstood, and is in reality a reference to Michigan's membership in the Western Conference, later renamed the Big Ten. Accordingly, after Michigan temporarily withdrew from the Western Conference in 1907, a new Michigan fight song "Varsity" was written in 1911 because the line "champions of the West" was no longer appropriate.[5] Both songs were highly popular, and with Michigan's reentry to the Western Conference in 1917, followed by an undefeated football season in 1918,[6] the lyrics to The Victors became apt once again.

The lyrics are unusual for a fight song, in that the typical fight song exhorts its team to play well and win, whereas "The Victors" is sung in celebration of a win after the fact.

The University's Flint branch campus selected "The Victors" as their sports nickname in an unofficial student vote.[7][8][9]

Uses and performances[edit]

Louis Elbel conducting the Michigan Marching Band in "The Victors," 1958

The chorus of the song ("Hail! to the victors valiant," etc.) is played at all University of Michigan sports competitions, as well as many UM band events, first year student orientation and welcoming events, and graduation commencement ceremonies. When the song is played at any event, most fans stand and clap in rhythm until the chorus. During the chorus, fans clap and sing along and thrust their fists in the air at each repetition of the word "Hail!" This raising of the fist during the chorus has become a well-known sight indicative of UM athletics and school spirit. Recently, fans have started to yell the phrase "Go Blue!" at the conclusion of the chorus. However, during hockey games, it is more common to insert "Let's Go Blue!" in between the two stanzas of the chorus (after the line "...leaders and best.") than it is to end with "Go Blue!" More recently, the hockey fans at Yost Ice Arena have begun adopting the football cheer version and ending in "Go Blue!" in addition to the aforementioned "Let's Go Blue!" in the middle of the song.

Since UM athletics and "The Victors" are both popular, the University of Michigan has also used the words to the fight song as an advertising tool. For example, commercials for the University of Michigan Health System's "The Michigan Difference" campaign have featured the words to the chorus of "The Victors" over pictures of children in hospital beds, amputees and post-surgical patients living active lives, and doctors performing surgery. The musical accompaniment to these commercials is a light chamber orchestra/pop rendition of the fight song.[10]

UM alumnus Gerald R. Ford, the 38th President of the United States, often had the Naval band play the fight song prior to state events instead of "Hail to the Chief".[11] He also selected the song to be played during his December 2006 funeral procession at the U.S. Capitol.[12] The Michigan Marching Band played this tune for him one final time, for his last ride from the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Lyrics[edit]

Now for a cheer they are here, triumphant!
Here they come with banners flying,
In stalwart step they're nighing,
With shouts of vict'ry crying,
We hurrah, hurrah, we greet you now, Hail!
Far we their praises sing
For the glory and fame they've bro't us
Loud let the bells them ring
For here they come with banners flying
Far we their praises tell
For the glory and fame they've bro't us
Loud let the bells them ring
For here they come with banners flying
Here they come, Hurrah!

(chorus)

Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan
The leaders and best!
Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan,
The champions of the West!

(break strain)

We cheer them again
We cheer and cheer again
For Michigan, we cheer for Michigan
We cheer with might and main
We cheer, cheer, cheer
With might and main we cheer!

(chorus)

There were also, an alternate set of lyrics that were found in University athletic files circa the 1920s.[13] It is not known if Elbel or someone else wrote them-

Hail! to our Alma Mater!
Hail! to dear old Ann Arbor!
Hail! Hail to Michigan
The Athens of the West!

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shaker, Clay (September 21, 1998). ""The Victors!" turns 100 years old". The Michigan Daily. Archived from the original on 2007-02-13. Retrieved 2007-03-06. 
  2. ^ Michael Hondorp, Fabrikant Alexis (January 1, 2005). University of Michigan College Prowler Off the Record. College Prowler, Inc. p. 118. ISBN 1-59658-163-8. 
  3. ^ The Michiganesian Yearbook 1999 p.186
  4. ^ Leslie, Dale, "Whose Victors? Did Louis Elbel copy part of another march?" Ann Arbor News (August 31, 2008)
  5. ^ Michigan Marching Band History - The Eugene Fischer Years 1906-1914
  6. ^ Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan Athletics History 1918 Football Team
  7. ^ Mostafavi, Beata (2008-09-22). "Sports talk at University of Michigan–Flint sparks more mascot consideration". Flint Journal. Flint, Michigan: Booth Newspapers. Archived from the original on May 17, 2009. Retrieved 2008-10-29. 
  8. ^ Morland, Mike (May 28, 2008). "U-M-Flint closer to selecting mascot". University Record Online. Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  9. ^ Shoup, Allison (April 25, 2008). "'Victors' not yet a sure thing". The Michigan Times. Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  10. ^ "The Michigan Difference". University of Michigan Health System. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  11. ^ Rozell, Mark J. (October 15, 1992). The Press and the Ford Presidency. University of Michigan Press. p. 38. ISBN 0-472-10350-4. .
  12. ^ Anne E. Kornblut, "Ford Arranged His Funeral to Reflect Himself and Drew in a Former Adversary," New York Times, December 29, 2006.
  13. ^ Natural Enemies: Major College Football's Oldest, Fiercest Rivalry-Michigan vs. Notre Dame. John Kryk. 

External links[edit]