who wrote america the beautiful?

who wrote america the beautiful?

who wrote america the beautiful?

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who wrote america the beautiful?
who wrote america the beautiful?

One hundred and twenty-five years ago, Wellesley College English professor Katharine Lee Bates published a poem inspired by a cross-country railroad trip and a climb to the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado.

 


Katharine Lee Bates graduated from Wellesley – a women’s college just west of Boston – in 1880 and began teaching at area high schools. In 1889, her young adult novel, “Rose and Thorn,” won a publishing prize and her poem “Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride” popularized the notion of a Mrs. Santa Claus who worked behind the scenes to help her husband make Christmas happen.

Bates used her prize money to travel and study at Oxford University in England. Upon her return in 1891, she was hired as an English instructor at Wellesley.

 

The song, “America the Beautiful,” was based on a poem written by the professor, poet, and writer, Katharine Lee Bates, during an 1893 trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado.

 

The poem that Bates wrote first appeared in print in The Congregationalist, a weekly journal, on July 4, 1895. Within a few months, it was set to music by Silas G. Pratt.

 

Bates revised the song in 1904, after receiving many requests to use the song in publications and special services. An additional change was made to the wording of the third verse in 1913 to give us the version we know today. The song is considered by some to be the country’s unofficial national anthem.

 

Bates used her prize money to travel and study at Oxford University in England. Upon her return in 1891, she was hired as an English instructor at Wellesley.

 

“America, the Beautiful” facts and figures:

  • For years after “America the Beautiful” was written, it was sung to popular or folk tunes that would fit with the lyrics; “Auld Lang Syne” was the most popular of these tunes.
  • Today, “America the Beautiful” is sung to Samuel A. Ward’s “Materna.”

 

What are the lyrics to ‘America the Beautiful’, and what’s the patriotic song’s history?

 

who wrote america the beautiful?
who wrote america the beautiful?

We explore the lyrics and history of a beloved American patriotic song, ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Once on the table to become the national anthem of the United States, ‘America the Beautiful’ has never quite succeeded in ousting its musical rival, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ – but it holds a meaningful place in the hearts of many Americans.

The song’s music and lyrics were conceived in the 19th century, by two people who never met: Katharine Lee Bates, whose words formed the poem Pikes Peak, and organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward, who composed the music at his church in New Jersey.

For her lyrical inspiration, Bates looked to her surroundings, the “purple mountain majesties” reflecting the view she found at the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado.

Finally, in 1910, Ward and Bates’ creations were combined and published under the name ‘America the Beautiful’. Ward died in 1903, with no idea of the status his music would one day take on.

Read more: Calls for ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ to be replaced with a new anthem >

Opera star Renee Fleming sings ‘America the Beautiful’ at Harvard University in 2015. Picture: Getty

Who has performed ‘America the Beautiful’?

Some of America’s biggest music sensations have wrapped their vocal cords around ‘America the Beautiful’, including Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, who both recorded the song in the 1960s.

More than a decade later, the patriotic melody was repopularised through a soulful, chart-topping 1976 rendition by Ray Charles.

On this side of the year 2000, it was heard in a typically rousing rendition by Beyoncé at Barack Obama’s inaugural concert in 2008. It’s also often heard at the Super Bowl, and will be taken on this year by Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, a singer-songwriter known as H.E.R.

Read more: What are the lyrics to the US National Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner? >

But until we hear that, please enjoy this absolutely belting rendition from Whitney Houston, who does it with melismas aplenty:

 

 

who wrote america the beautiful?
who wrote america the beautiful?

Is ‘America the Beautiful’ an official US anthem?

 

It’s a beloved melody and was even considered as a candidate for the official anthem before ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ was eventually chosen in 1931, but ‘America the Beautiful’ doesn’t officially have legal status as a US national hymn or anthem.

That’s not for want of people trying.

 

Many have argued that ‘America the Beautiful’, as well as being an easier sing and more adaptable to new orchestrations, lacks the often controversially perceived, warlike connotations of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.

 

What are the lyrics to ‘America the Beautiful’?

 

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,

America! America!
May God thy gold refine,

And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

who wrote america the beautiful?
who wrote america the beautiful?
Katharine Lee Bates

Bates was a noted scholar, poet, and writer. She was a prolific author publishing many volumes of poetry, books on her travels to Europe and the Middle East and stories, verses and plays for children.

 

 

In 1915, Bates was a founder of the New England Poetry Club and served as its president. She was involved in social reform activities, working for labor reform and planning the College Settlements Association with Vida Scudder. Bates lived for 25 years with Katharine Coman. She never married and had no children. In 1925, Bates retired and spent the remaining years in Wellesley. Katherine Lee Bates died on March 28, 1929.

Bates remarked on the immediate and lasting success of the song stating: “That the hymn has gained, in these twenty odd years, such a hold as it has upon our people, is clearly due to the fact that Americans are at heart idealists, with a fundamental faith in human brotherhood.”

 

 

Why was America the Beautiful written?
A view of Pikes Peak from the Carroll Lakes, circa 1925. Katharine Lee Bates’ trip up the Colorado mountain inspired her poem “America,” later to become the song “America the Beautiful.” This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action.

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