Maryland’s first State Song Advisory Group issued a report this week recommending changes to the state’s official anthem, “Maryland, My Maryland,” which critics say is divisive for its celebration of the Confederacy.

The nine-verse tune has been designated as the official state song since 1939. It has been the subject of several unsuccessful retirement efforts over the past four decades.

With the advisory group’s recommendation and with national conversations shifting to the endurance of Confederate symbols and modern race relations, Frederick County state Delegate Karen Lewis Young said she hopes 2016 is the year the song will be changed.

Last summer, Lewis Young was drafting legislation to reconsider the song’s designation, a proposal she shared with Delegate Peter A. Hammen, chairman of the House Health and Government Operations Committee.

Lewis Young sits on the committee, which considers bills dealing with official state designations.

Hammen, who was approached by another lawmaker about the topic, asked the Maryland State archivist, Timothy D. Baker, to create an advisory group in July.

The group’s report, released Monday, agreed unanimously that the song “is not inclusive of all Marylanders — either when it was originally written or today — and does not reflect current attitudes or what is best about our state.”

Earlier efforts

Opposition to “Maryland, My Maryland,” started early — before the song even received its official state designation.

In 1935, a bill designating the song was passed by the Maryland General Assembly, but was vetoed by Gov. Harry W. Nice, who opposed the song’s “objectionable verses,” according to the advisory group’s report.

The song, set to the tune of “Lauriger Horatius (O Tannenbaum),” was written by James Ryder Randall, a native of Baltimore, in 1861, while he was living in Louisiana. The song was celebrated in the South but stirred controversy in Maryland, where Civil War sympathies were divided, according to the report.

When Nice lost re-election in 1939, Gov. Herbert R. O’Conor signed a second General Assembly bill into law.

Bills that would have overturned the designation were introduced by lawmakers in 1974, 1980, 1984, 2001, 2002 and 2009. None passed.

Several times, including in 2002 and 2009, lawmakers have proposed replacing “Maryland, My Maryland” with words from John T. White’s 1894 poem “My Maryland.”

White, who was born in Frederick County, wrote the poem as alternate lyrics to Randall’s song.

The advisory group created this year is the first formal body created to offer a recommendation to the General Assembly.

Advisory group report

The Advisory Group on the Maryland State Song was formed in July and included experts in Maryland history, music history, military history, cultural history and folklore. It met twice in October and electronically before submitting its report.

To begin the assessment of “Maryland, My Maryland,” Baker wrote that the advisory group first created criteria for measuring suitable state songs.

It concluded that an official state song should:

  • celebrate Maryland and its citizens;
  • be unique to Maryland;
  • be historically significant;
  • be inclusive of all Marylanders;
  • be memorable, popular, singable and short.

After consideration, the group suggested six alternatives for lawmakers to consider.

The first is to retire all but the third verse of Randall’s song.

The second alternative suggests adopting the fourth verse of White’s poem to be sung in the current song’s place.

A third alternative would combine Randall’s third verse and White’s fourth verse, to create a two-verse tune.

A fourth suggestion would be to adopt a state song that would be played instrumentally only.

The group also noted that state has a unique claim to “The Star Spangled Banner” — written by Frederick’s Francis Scott Key about an event in Maryland — and could adopt the national anthem as a state song.

A final recommendation suggests retiring “Maryland, My Maryland” with no replacement for 10 years to see if a popular alternative emerges.

A change in 2016?

Lewis Young said she was pleased with the level of detail in the advisory group’s report.

“What’s really important is that before they made any recommendation, they created a set of criteria,” Lewis Young said of the advisory group’s work. “After establishing the criteria, they said the current song doesn’t meet the criteria except for the third verse.”

Lewis Young said she has heard from several constituents turned off by the name-calling and divisiveness of the current song. The lawmaker said she will work with fellow legislators to craft a bill to address the state song designation when the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 13.

“I just don’t think that’s appropriate for a state song. You want something that unites us and doesn’t divide us,” she said.

At first blush, she likes the committee’s recommendation to combine the works of White and Randall and would support that change in Annapolis.

“For those who wanted to keep the song, we’re keeping the verse. For those who wanted something that celebrates Maryland’s beauty and history, we’ve got a verse of the John T. White song,” she said. “I think this is a great compromise.”

Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines.

Danielle E. Gaines covers politics and government in Frederick County, splitting her time between Winchester Hall and The State House. Having grown up in Illinois, she lived in New York and California before settling in Maryland.

(35) comments

wran

Doubt that many people even know the words to the state song or care what they are.

Dwasserba

But "panoplied" is so musical.

Sallyforth

I agree with many that it's a waste of time and taxpayer money. There are more important things they should be working on. Just change the stupid state song to The Doors 'Strange Days' and be done with it.

awteam2000

How about changing the song to 'Seven Army Nation' by Jack White?

Sallyforth

[thumbup] I like that idea a lot!

LeonardKeepers

i see nothing wrong with the song other than the only time we get to hear it is right before the Preakness is run.to me it is a good song even if it sung and played to the same tune as o christmas tree and o tananbaum. like many of the other posters what kind of people do we have in our government these days that have a problem with history and tradition.maybe someone can put the words to a different tune,but i see no reason to do so let the state song alone and get on with far more important projects.

DickD

Maryland My Maryland always seemed like a lovely song. Destroying history, as the Young's seem to want to do will not change my mind. If they ever pass any meaningful legislation, it would be nice. And I voted for them, both of them, not Blaine.

niceund

Why is my tax money being used for this? I am so sick of the PC police!

bjiggs

Will they be creating safe-spaces as well for these poor souls who have been so offended? And what about those who find offense in whatever song gets chosen next? How will their tender feelings be protected?

I need a hug. A great big group one.

DickD

Only if you are a female.[batman]

wind chaser

Really ? There are more important things the the state need's to address then trying to please a few people . if you don't like it don't sing it.

dperlowski

What are the lyrics to "Maryland, My Maryland"? Without looking them up. You seem to care about the subject, fairly deeply....

MAVRICKinc7

Isn't this what FAMILY VALUES are all about?

elymus43

Hopefully the voters will vote both the Youngs and Krimm out of office.

DickD

We are certainly thinking about it.

ClareS

Who cares? Who sings this anyway?

DickD

Not many, a TV station, probably Baltimore used to sign off with it many years ago, I did have a disk with it on. I do love the song, but never sing it. It made me remember history and the fact I had two great grandfathers and a great uncle that fought in the Civil War, on the side of the North. Destroying history is like the ISIS.

DeDeuceCoupe32

Why retire the song? Why does a state need one song? Make a Maryland album of songs so everyone can sing their little hearts out.

Comment deleted.
Nicki

thevoiceoffrederick you are not!

GTJHS

2015 - The Year of the Offended..... so sad [unsure]

tonyc51

Get rid of the song, regardless of the reason, it is not important enough for the legislature to wasting all this time, while Baltimore rots, the taxpayers are being exploited and there are a multitude of other important items not being addressed.

bosco

"the despot's heel is on they shore"....I like the fact that the song remembers the incident when a sitting President sent troops to prevent a vote by a duly elected state government. It's an action that should not be forgotten.

bosco

Sorry, the quote should be "the despot's heel is on thy shore". Forgot to override auto correct.[beam]

DickD

Amen, bosco,

Nicki

Toss this awful song and find a new one. WV made the switch to John Denver's "Country Roads" and folks can now sing it proudly.
Thank you, Karen Young

Frayou

I agree with the previous postings. Really. With all the country. State and local government problems is this the only issue our politicians have to address? Which focuses on another problem our obsession with political correctness and attempts at rewritting history.

DickD

[thumbup]

OldJay

I'm very glad that most of the state song will be retired. It's probably the worst state song in the nation.

But why keep Carroll and Howard and "warlike thrusts?" Too Freudian.

OldJay

This effort, while well-intended, reminds me of an old saying:

What is a camel?

A camel is a horse built by a committee.

johnqFrederick

Is Young so shallow that she has nothing better to do as a legislator? Seriously? Actually, if she was elected, then she truly reflects the voters lack of critical thinking skills, real experience, maybe -- just a bunch of freeloaders --people who live off the hard earned tax dollars of everyone else,

DickD

[thumbup]

m21701m

I see our delegates are bored coming up with "for the sake of" nonsense. I'm shocked they aren't including her and Ron's name in the song as a "special gift" to Marylanders. What BS. Go find some real issues to tackle or resign. You did nothing for the city and you certainly are doing nothing for the state.

DickD

[thumbup][thumbup]

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