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Finding worthy replacement lyrics for state song should not prove difficult | READER COMMENTARY

Some of the lyrics to "Maryland My Maryland," the current state song.
Some of the lyrics to "Maryland My Maryland," the current state song. (By Joshua McKerrow, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The year 1939 was certain a boom year for the romanticization of the Old South. “Gone with the Wind” was the big movie of the year, and Maryland adopted “Maryland, My Maryland” as the official state song (”Shelve Maryland’s toxic state song now,” June 25). In 2011, on the 150th anniversary of the Pratt Street riots that resulted in the poem, the Baltimore City Historical Society sponsored a contest to come up with two alternatives to the song. There were two prizes: one for new words to the existing tune and the other for both new words and tune.

Our thought then was that it was too controversial to replace the current song, but Maryland could have more than one. After all, the United States has an official national anthem and also several well-loved patriotic song, such as “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and “America the Beautiful.” The historical society announced the contest, received several entries and a panel of distinguished judges selected the winners. The entries that were not selected were quite good, which suggests that there are many talented individuals who can produce a better song than we now have.

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Now in 2020, we are in a time when it is finally possible to select a song that Marylanders can sing proudly, that represents the present and future. We have seen that there are talented people willing to meet the challenge of capturing our state in words and music. We should invite them to meet that challenge.

Or, for those who prefer to dwell in the 1860’s, there’s the Union version of the song. Here is the first verse, sung to the usual melody:

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“The traitor’s foot is on thy soil, Maryland, my Maryland! Let not his touch thy honor spoil, Maryland, my Maryland! Wipe out the unpatriotic gore, That flecked the streets of Baltimore, And be the loyal state of yore, Maryland my Maryland.”

Michael S. Franch, Baltimore

The writer is past president of the Baltimore City Historical Society.

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