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Maryland's state song shows Confederate sympathies

While a Baltimore commission considers what to do with Confederate-era monuments erected on city property, the state of Maryland should undertake a similar review. But it should not look at just statues; it should also consider changing the lyrics of our official — and offensive — state song, "Maryland, My Maryland."

Most Marylanders probably don't know the words to the song other than the refrain "Maryland, my Maryland." The lyrics were written as a poem by a Marylander named James Ryder Randall at the start of the Civil War. His verse is a plea for Maryland to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy to battle the "Northern scum" lead by the "tyrant" President Abraham Lincoln. The poem was set to the music of the Christmas carol, "O, Tannenbaum" and was popular across the south during the war. It became our state anthem in 1939.

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But how many people today sing our shameful song? How many have even heard it sung, except maybe when the U. S. Naval Academy glee club harmonizes the most inoffensive third stanza at the Preakness each year? Probably very few children, if any, shout out the embarrassing ode in classrooms anymore.

There have been efforts in the past to change the lyrics — most recently this summer, when Del. Karen Lewis Young of Frederick submitted legislation to change the lyrics — but none have succeeded. After the murders in the Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina this past summer, many states began to remove the last vestiges of Confederate symbols from their officialdom, including the lowering of the rebel flag from the South Carolina capitol grounds forever. It is time for Maryland to face the fact that our state ballad is repulsive and a disgrace.

A state song should represent the love citizens have for a state and highlight her assets. Our song does neither. But it doesn't have to be that way. There are several other versions of "Maryland, My Maryland" available for us to use. I too have written new lyrics that represent all that is good about Maryland. It can be proudly sung by children and used in lesson plans to teach our kids about our state symbols, mottoes and geography. Many other state songs, including other proposed versions of "Maryland, My Maryland," contain generalities that could apply to any state. There is no mistaking what state my song is about. And while it may need some tweaking after a thorough review, it's a strong improvement over the song we have today.

I urge Marylanders to demand that the General Assembly pass a bill in the 2016 session, and that the governor to sign it, that changes the lyrics to our official state song. I have sent letters to our state government leaders about the issue offering to transfer the copyright for my version to the State of Maryland. But whether legislators choose my version or another isn't important as long as we finally have a new "Maryland, My Maryland," that we can all sing together with pride.

Sean Tully is a musician and member of the Baltimore Songwriters Association and the Baltimore Guitarist Group. His email is jptjptjpt@yahoo.com.

A new "Maryland, My Maryland"

From rounded mountains highest crest,

Maryland, my Maryland.

To ocean beaches, we are blessed,

Maryland, my Maryland.

From city street to fertile farm,

The Chesapeake's abundant charm,

We pledge to shield you from all harm,

Maryland, my Maryland.

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Where grand white oaks grow gracefully,

Maryland, my Maryland.

Where blue crabs swim so beautifully,

Maryland, my Maryland.

Where thoroughbreds graze rolling hills,

Where Black-Eyed Susan simply thrills,

Your nature awes, your bounty spills,

Maryland, my Maryland.

Through every season you enthrall,

Maryland, my Maryland.

Your loveliness inspires all,

Maryland, my Maryland.

You are the place our hearts will stay,

Where we do live, learn, work, and play,

And may it always be that way,

Maryland, my Maryland.

Our many paths have led us here,

Maryland, my Maryland.

Our valiant past we treasure dear,

Maryland, my Maryland.

You are the home to truly brave,

When country called your children gave,

Forever may your bold flag wave,

Maryland, my Maryland.

With faith and freedom tightly bound,

Maryland, my Maryland.

We've built today on solid ground,

Maryland, my Maryland.

Where equal rights are fair and just,

And tyranny lies in the dust,

Our liberties, our sacred trust,

Maryland, my Maryland.

With gentle words strong deeds are done,

Maryland, my Maryland.

The Old Line holds and stands as one,

Maryland, my Maryland.

Into the future we will stride

With rich traditions as our guide,

O! know this Free State is our pride,

Maryland, my Maryland.

SOURCE: Sean Tully

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