Making a better future for the next generation in Michigan.

Will Michigan’s State Anthem Still Be Pathetic In 2040?

Aug 2, 2023 | Future, Michigan | 0 comments

And now, for a topic of the utmost seriousness for the next generation…Michigan has a state anthem that is pathetic. When I attended the University of Michigan, I remember everyone standing at football games and singing our college fight song Hail to the Victors. It was short – less than a minute and a half. It was rousing. It was written in a register in which almost everyone can sing. If you went to U of M, you probably knew the words by the end of your first semester:

Hail! to the victors valiant

Hail! to the conquering heroes

Hail! Hail! to Michigan

The leaders and best!

Hail! To the victors valiant

Hail! to the conquering heroes

Hail! Hail! to Michigan

The champions of the west!

Actually, this is verse number three of five, but it is the only one anyone remembers. The other four verses seem dated and boring. Really, the one verse is all you need to create a sense of unity in a crowd.

Michigan’s state anthem is a bit out of date

Compare Hail to the Victors to Michigan’s anthem Michigan My Michigan:

A song to thee, fair State of mine,
Michigan, my Michigan.
But greater song than this is thine,
Michigan, my Michigan.
The whisper of the forest tree.
The thunder of the inland sea;
Unite in one grand symphony
Of Michigan, my Michigan

I sing a State of all the best,
Michigan, my Michigan;
I sing a State with riches bless’d
Michigan, my Michigan;
Thy mines unmask a hidden store,
But richer thy historic lore,
More great the love thy builders bore,
O Michigan, my Michigan.

State songs don’t have to be boring

Now I have to admit that Hail To The Victors is a bit dated, which is natural since it was written in 1898. No one talks about “victors valiant” or “conquering heroes” any more. But, it does pull a crowd of strangers together. It has just 37 words. It’s memorable. Almost anyone can learn it and sing it. U of M fans sing it enthusiastically 125 years after it was written.

Georgia has Georgia On My Mind, Kentucky has My Old Kentucky Home, West Virginia has Country Roads, Take Me Home. What does Michigan have? Boring, dated, sanctimonious, and bland.

So, before our grandchildren grow old in state song deprivation, let’s have a contests in Michigan to select a new state song. Entries should be less than 90 seconds long, easy to learn, easy to sing, and rousing. Let’s give our citizens something to be proud of!

Epilogue

I stand by my argument that we need a new anthem in Michigan, but it is not a topic of “the utmost seriousness for the next generation,” of course. It is way down the list from giving our children and grandchildren great educations, ensuring prosperity, protecting their well-being, protecting their natural environment, and ensuring their liberties. However, a good state song is not meaningless, either.

In 1983 Benedict Anderson wrote a book called Imagined Communities to help explain how people can feel kinship with millions of people they don’t know and will never meet. Unlike natural communities of relatives and neighbors, “imagined communities” — like states and nations — are built with symbols and institutions. Having a common history helps bind people to the idea of their state. Participating in the decisions of their government can make people feel invested in their state. And even the humble state anthem has a role to play in building pride in an identity as a Michigander.

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