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Kid Music Series: Patriotic Songs for Sing-Alongs

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Why are these songs so important to us as Americans?

When we have patriotic holidays like Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and the Fourth of July, I believe we need to celebrate them with fun and meaningful songs that are easy to sing. In addition, we need songs that have historical significance. Because our school was near a military base, we had many children with parents and loved ones in the service. Some were deployed overseas. Teaching music to these children gave me a special charge, to make these songs have meaning and relate them to their family members that make such a sacrifice for our country.

When I arranged our Kindergarten Memorial Day Concert, it was a multi-layered experience. We not only memorized the lyrics and movements for the assembly and concert, we discussed the song meanings as they pertained to our present day country. I invited students to talk about their family member in the service. To tie it all in, I found wonderful picture books with the lyrics and beautiful illustrations.

This article is copyrighted by Kim Milai. Do not copy or distribute without permission. All rights reserved.

Here are my picks for meaningful songs for a Patriotic sing along.

  • My Country Tis of Thee
  • When Johnny Comes Marching Home
  • Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue
  • America the Beautiful
  • Yankee Doodle
  • This Land is Your Land
  • You’re a Grand Old Flag
  • When the Saints Go Marching In
  • Still in My Heart

I've also included music suggestions from Ken Burn's Civil War documentary.

My Country Tis of Thee (America)

It’s common knowledge that the melody for this song is originally a British anthem entitled God Save the Queen. The lyrics however were written by Samuel Francis Smith in 1831. It was used as an anthem for United States until it was decided to make the Star Spangled Banner the official song in the 1930’s.

My Country 'Tis of Thee

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

Patrick Gilmore wrote the lyrics to this song at the height of the Civil War in 1863. The "Johnny" so longed for in the song was Patrick Gilmore's future brother in-law, a Light Artillery Captain named John O'Rourke. The song was written by Patrick for his sister Annie Gilmore as she longed for the safe return of her Captain from the Civil War.

kid-music-series-patriotic-songs-for-sing-alongs

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

Pete Seeger

Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue

There are different versions of the song originally known as Columbia, The Gem of the Ocean. The initial song was composed by Thomas Becket and David Shaw in 1843. Here are the first and third verses:

Over There!

With Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue.

With Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue.

Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue

America the Beautiful

America The Beautiful was first published in 1895. The words are by Katherine Lee Bates and the music by Samuel A. Ward. Ms. Bates was quoted as saying, "One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse." As you sing her words, try picturing the images they inspire of our beautiful land.

This is my chart to help students remember the words.

all rights reserved

all rights reserved

America the Beautiful

America the Beautiful

Wee Sing America

Yankee Doodle

This song has an interesting background. It's a great example of the natural evolution of a folk song as it is altered for different purposes.

We remember it as a song about an American hero who fought under George Washington. But originally, the British used this song to make fun of the colonial fighters. Yankee refers to a person in the Northern American colonies. Doodle referred to someone who is a simpleton.

To increase the disrespect, the British soldiers used words making the Revolutionary soldiers seem foppish (feminine and weak). In Britain, a certain group of ‘dandy’ gentlemen wore a special type of wig called a macaroni wig and were made fun of when they stuck feathers in their hats to make them more fancy. Words were added to the song Yankee Doodle to reflect their disdain for the colony rebels.

I like how the American soldiers turned it around to make the words sound like Yankee Doodle was actually a patriot and a dedicated soldier to the cause of American independence.

Many different versions of the lyrics were custom made for different battles and scourges.

Yankee Doodle

This Land is Your Land

Woody Guthrie wrote this song in the 1940’s. This classic refrain sings of the beauty and diversity of America’s land and people. The beauty of this song is that it reaches all kinds of people coming from different political and social origins.

This Land is Your Land

This picture book has fabulous illustrations for the words by Woody Guthrie. I've used this book over and over. Buy new or used.

This picture book has fabulous illustrations for the words by Woody Guthrie. I've used this book over and over. Buy new or used.

This is my chart to help students remember the words.

all rights reserved

all rights reserved

This Land is Your Land

You're a Grand Old Flag

George Cohen wrote this song for his musical George Washington Jr. It became a popular hit and although the musical is long forgotten, this song will carry on. His inspiration came from a chance meeting with an old civil war soldier that carried with him an old and worn flag. The soldier reportedly said,”She’s a grand old rag!”

You're a Grand Old Flag

When the Saints Go Marching In

This spiritual turned into a New Orleans Jazz Band favorite around the turn of the century. You'll enjoy singing the strains of this rousing and uplifting march!

Louie Armstrong

This mp3 collection includes When the Saints Go Marching In.

This mp3 collection includes When the Saints Go Marching In.

Saints Go Marching In

Still in My Heart

We performed this beautiful song with gorgeous arrangement on Veterans Day, in honor of the soldiers visiting our school. My second graders sang it with sign language. Needless to say, the whole auditorium was moved, many holding back tears.

Still in my heart you are

Still in my heart you are

Still in my mind

Still in my dreams

Still in my heart, forever

The composer and arranger for Still in My Heart is Teresa Jennings. She grew up in a musical family with a father a conductor and her mother a performer. All of Jennings siblings continued with music either full or part time. Currently she and her husband publish the magazine K-8 Music while she continues composing for children’s choruses.

Still in My Heart - Sample and CD Information

  • Still In My Heart
    Read about the song,Still In My Heart, from Music K-8 magazine, and listen to an extended sound clip.
  • Product Detail: Music K-8, Vol. 16, No. 1
    Product Detail: Music K-8, Vol. 16, No. 1 in the MusicK8.com Marketplace, home of music teaching ideas and music teaching resources for kindergarten through grade 8 school music teachers and home schoolers.

Ken Burns and Music for His Civil War Documentary

Burns understands the interweaving of story, pictures and music. I couldn’t write an article about American Patriotic Songs without mentioning the soundtrack from Ken Burns' Civil War Documentary. The hand picked songs carry the narrative beautifully.

Pieces that stand out:
Ashokan Farewell by Jay Unger Although this is a modern composition, it hits the emotion and the gut. This song was originally written as a goodbye song to a place where the composer was staying. It’s plaintive yet uplifting quality is a gem.

When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Yankee Doodle performed by the Old Bethpage Brass Band


Battle Cry of Freedom performed by Jacqueline Schwab

The Civil War: Soundtrack

kid-music-series-patriotic-songs-for-sing-alongs

Comments

Kim Milai (author) on October 16, 2014:

Thank you so much favored for your compliments. Now that I'm not in the classroom, I hope to share online my experiences and songs I feel our kids should have in their lives.

Fay Favored from USA on October 16, 2014:

I'm so pleased to see this article in which the children are learning these songs. They were a part of my growing up, but sadly most kids today don't know much about the music background of this country. Well done Kim. Pinning it to my American holiday board.

Kim Milai (author) on October 16, 2014:

Thank you so much Nancy, also, I didn't know about the melody for the Star Spangled Banner. :)

Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on October 15, 2014:

The melody for The Star Spangled Banner was also a British song, a popular drinking tune. It's not so amazing that much of our heritage comes from England, since of course our original colonies were settled by them. But I think it's fun to know the origin of the songs we sing as "ours." Thanks for sharing this, it's a beautiful Hub.

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