Thursday, June 10, 2010

Flag Day: June 14

Painting of famous Iwo Jima flag-raising photoJune 14  is "Flag Day" a commemoration of the day in 1777 when the Second Continental Congress adopted the stars & stripes as the official flag for the new country.  The date wasn't celebrated until World War I, when President Wilson established June 14 as Flag Day Since then, Americans have been encouraged to fly the flag for the entire week that includes June 14, and many communities hold celebrations or parades.

Star Spangled Banner lyrics in Scott's handThe most famous song about the flag is the Star Spangled Banner, which tells the story of the flag that flew during the Battle of Fort McHenry.  Francis Scott Key wrote the words and set them to a pre-existing melody, Anacreon in Heaven. It has been America's National Anthem since 1931. The original hand-written copy of the lyrics (left) is owned by the Library of Congress.  

The official march of the United States is also about the flag:  The Stars and Stripes composed in 1896 by Marine Band conductor and leader, John Philip Sousa (right).  It was designated the official march in 1987.

Other songs have unofficial roles in celebrating the flag.  In 1906 George M. Cohan wrote a song about a flag for his musical, George Washington, Jr.   The song would outlive the musical by many generations:   You're a Grand Old Flag.  Many other songs have been written but none have achieved the popularity of Cohan's.  World War 2 inspired many patriotic songs, including songs about the flag.  At the end of the Vietnam war, Johnny Cash sang "Ragged Old Flag"  about a small-town flag.  Many other songs reference the flag, such as the line "Hoist the flag and let her fly" in the World War 1 song, "Over There."

Cover of Songbook titled United We Stand
Click here to search CardCat for recordings of patriotic music for your Flag Day celebration.  The Music Collection also has songbooks with piano & vocal parts for most popular songs, including patriotic songs. Use quotation marks to search for a title, and add "score" as a keyword to your search to find songbooks containing specific song.

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