America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)

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Sheet music[1]

"America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)" is an American patriotic song, the lyrics of which were written by Samuel Francis Smith.[2] The song served as one of the de facto national anthems of the United States (along with songs like "Hail, Columbia") before the adoption of "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the official U.S. national anthem in 1931.[3] The melody used is the same as that of the national anthem of the United Kingdom, "God Save the King".


Samuel Francis Smith wrote the lyrics to "America" in 1831[4] while a student at the Andover Theological Seminary in Andover, Massachusetts. The use of the same melody as the British royal anthem can be described as a contrafactum which reworks this symbol of British monarchy to make a statement about American democracy.[5]

Well-known composer Lowell Mason had requested that Smith translate or provide new lyrics for a collection of German songs, among them one written to this melody. Smith gave Mason the lyrics he had written, and the song was first performed in public on July 4, 1831,[4] at a children's Independence Day celebration at Park Street Church in Boston. The first publication of "America" was in 1832.[4]


My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From ev'ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!

My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture thrills,
Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom's song;
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.

Our fathers' God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom's holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King!

Abolitionist version[edit]

An Abolitionist version was written, by A. G. Duncan, 1843.[6]

My country, 'tis of thee,
Stronghold of slavery, of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Where men man's rights deride,
From every mountainside thy deeds shall ring.

My native country, thee,
Where all men are born free, if white's their skin;
I love thy hills and dales,
Thy mounts and pleasant vales;
But hate thy negro sales, as foulest sin.

Let wailing swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees the black man's wrong;
Let every tongue awake;
Let bond and free partake;
Let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong.

Our father's God! to thee,
Author of Liberty, to thee we sing;
Soon may our land be bright,
With holy freedom's right,
Protect us by thy might, Great God, our King.

It comes, the joyful day,
When tyranny's proud sway, stern as the grave,
Shall to the ground be hurl'd,
And freedom's flag, unfurl'd,
Shall wave throughout the world, O'er every slave.

Trump of glad jubilee!
Echo o'er land and sea freedom for all.
Let the glad tidings fly,
And every tribe reply,
"Glory to God on high", at Slavery's fall!

Additional verse to celebrate Washington's Centennial:[7]

Our joyful hearts today,
Their grateful tribute pay,
Happy and free,
After our toils and fears,
After our blood and tears,
Strong with our hundred years,
O God, to Thee!

Notable performances[edit]

Aretha Franklin (age 66) singing "My Country, 'Tis Of Thee" at the first inauguration of Barack Obama (20 January 2009).

Marian Anderson performed the song at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939.[citation needed]

In the original film version of the musical West Side Story (1961), when the Puerto Rican gang is forced to leave a "war council" by a policeman, they whistle the anthem.[8]

Martin Luther King Jr. recited the first verse of the song toward the end of his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963.[9]

Cary Grant and Jim Hutton sang the first verse in the 1966 film Walk, Don't Run, while simultaneously Grant and Samantha Eggar sang "God Save the Queen".[citation needed]

Neil Diamond included the opening lines in his song "America" in the musical film "The Jazz Singer" (1980).[citation needed]

The song was recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for their album God Bless America (1992).[citation needed]

Crosby, Stills & Nash performed the song on the first episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno that aired after the September 11 attacks in 2001.[10]

On January 20, 2009, Aretha Franklin sang the song at the first inauguration of Barack Obama.[11]

On January 21, 2013, Kelly Clarkson sang the song at the public inauguration ceremony of the second inauguration of Barack Obama.[12]

The song was played at Senator John McCain's funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral on September 1, 2018.[13]

The Doors used a guitar riff of the song at the beginning of their song "L.A. Woman" on the 40th anniversary editions of L.A. Woman in 2001 and on the re-release album The Very Best of The Doors (2007).[citation needed]

Madonna and Steven Klein sing some verses of the song in their Secret Project video.[14]

Dan Berggren updated the song's lyrics in 2004 in a version slanted towards the environment and freedom. It appears as "From Every Mountain Side" on the 2006 Sleeping Giant Records album Fresh Territory.[15][non-primary source needed][relevant?]

Alec Benjamin sings the first two lines of the song in his song titled "1994".[16]

See also[edit]

Other texts set to the same music:

Organ variations by Charles Ives:


  1. ^ Free scores of "My country, 'tis of thee" #16830 in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki), PDF
  2. ^ "My Country, 'Tis of Thee". The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Archived from the original on December 7, 2014. Retrieved December 6, 2014.
  3. ^ Snyder, Lois Leo (1990). Encyclopedia of Nationalism. Paragon House. p. 13. ISBN 1-55778-167-2.
  4. ^ a b c Garraty, John A. & Carnes, Mark C., eds. (1999). American National Biography. Vol. 20. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 281.
  5. ^ Fassler, Margot Elsbeth (2014). Music in the Medieval West (First ed.). New York. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-393-92915-7. Examples of contrafacta abound in many times and cultures. My Country, 'Tis of Thee, for instance, is a contrafactum of an earlier English anthem, God Save the King, and the reworking makes a statement about American democracy.
  6. ^ Jarius Lincoln, [ed.] Antislavery Melodies: for The Friends of Freedom. Prepared for the Hingham Antislavery Society. Words by A. G. Duncan. (Hingham, [Mass.]: Elijah B. Gill, 1843), Hymn 17 6s & 4s (Tune – "America") pp. 28–29.
    Some of these verses can be heard in the recording of the Arizona State University Antislavery Ensemble. "My Country ‘Tis of Thee" (Vimeo). Arizona State University – Department of English. March 1, 2006. Retrieved May 17, 2019..
  7. ^ Andrews, E. Benjamin (1912). History of the United States. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  8. ^ Wise, Robert. "West Side Story (1961 film) Part 3 Summary and Analysis | GradeSaver". Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  9. ^ Hansen, Drew D. (2003). The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation. New York: Harper Collins. p. 83.
  10. ^ Keveney, Bill (September 19, 2001). "Audience identifies with low-key Leno". USA Today. Retrieved July 3, 2009.
  11. ^ "Aretha Franklin Sings at President Obama's 2009 Inauguration |". Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  12. ^ Staff-, W. S. J. (January 21, 2013). "Kelly Clarkson Sings 'My Country 'Tis of Thee' at Inauguration 2013". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  13. ^ "Was God Save the Queen played at John McCain's funeral?". BBC News. September 1, 2018. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  14. ^ Art For Freedom. "Art For Freedom". Archived from the original on September 7, 2013. Retrieved September 4, 2013.
  15. ^ Dan Berggren (2004). "From Every Mountainside".
  16. ^ Benjamin, Alec (November 16, 2018). "1994". Spotify. Retrieved February 24, 2021.


External links[edit]