Let Freedom Ring: America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)
If there was a proper contender for the "Star-Spangled Banner," "America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)" would be a perfect fit. This patriotic song has been the Banner's competition for the honor of being the United States of America's national anthem. In many cases, the hymn's title is shortened to "America."
The "Banner" and "America" share similarities. One, they are both patriotic songs written by Americans. Two, their lyrics are patriotic, but their tunes are not. Banner's tune was a repurposed version of an English tavern song while America's melody was a direct copy of the United Kingdom's official anthem, "God Save the King/Queen." Another point of comparison is the hymns' longevity. Both hymns were used as a patriotic song for a long time and were de facto national anthems. However, "Star-Spangled Banner" got the role of being the nation's national anthem.
The song's lyricist, Samuel Francis Smith (1808 –1895), wrote the lyrics in 1831 as a student in Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. Smith completed the lyrics in thirty minutes. The choice of the tune was credited to Lowell Mason, a friend. The melody of "God Save the King/Queen" caught Smith's attention and used it. The public heard this new hymn on July 4, 1831, at Independence Day celebration for children in Boston. The hymn's first publication was in 1832.
The length of the original lyrics is four verses with seven lines. One additional verse was written for Washington's Centennial. Henry van Dyke (1852 –1933) added two more verses, with focus on America's landscape. Finally, A. G. Duncan added six more verses that focus on Abolition in 1943. The standard four verses are the most sung version.
America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee) as a patriotic song is a favorite during Independence Day and other notable events. Many singers, famous and not, cover the song for different occasions. Covers usually are live performances and in front of a crowd or a televised event. As one of the most beloved songs, America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee) 's lyrics and meaning of freedom lives to this day.