Maryland may soon be a state without a song. This Baltimore musician has a plan.
Mar 17, 2018 at 6:00 AM
If we ditch "Maryland, My Maryland" — an idea that's long overdue — what do we have to replace it? Baltimore musician Sean Tully has an idea.
With a Senate vote Friday, Maryland moved a big step closer to ditching its Confederate-sympathizing state song, “Maryland, My Maryland.” Good. At a time when we’re removing Confederate monuments from Baltimore, the State House and beyond, it was notably incongruous. If the House of Delegates agrees to the Senate’s action, “Maryland, My Maryland” will become the “historic state song,” leaving us with … nothing instead.
As the news broke, I thought of Sean Tully, a Baltimore musician who has been beating this particular drum for years and who has written various letters to the editor and an op-ed on the topic. He says he had been vaguely aware of the song’s Confederacy-glorifying lyrics and was struck one day while driving through Eastern Shore farmland on the way home from Ocean City that it’s a shame our song doesn’t glorify the state’s natural beauty instead. He wrote his own version of the song, still to the same tune, and started singing it.
After the Charleston church shootings in 2015 prompted a round of reappraisals of Confederate iconography and symbolism, people started paying attention. A state commission considered the matter and recommended stripping the current song down to its third verse — the one that’s most commonly sung and which is generally considered inoffensive — but throwing in a reference to abolitionist Harriet Tubman, which was easily accomplished without wrecking the rhythm or rhyme scheme.
But after the violence last summer during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., many concluded that “Maryland, My Maryland” needed to be scrapped altogether, and that led us to the point where we are now.
Mr. Tully says he’s no sentimentalist for keeping the current tune, refrain or title of “Maryland, My Maryland,” but he believes having a state song is important — it can and should serve as a distillation of our culture and a point of pride. In that vein, he offers up the alternative version he wrote as an interim selection until the state can decide the best path forward, and he was gracious enough to come to The Sun’s offices to record the fourth stanza. The full lyrics are printed below.