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"America Beautiful," Katharine Lee Bates, 1895, 1904, 1913. Originally a poem that Bates twice revised after its first publication in 1885, "America Beautiful" was sung to several different melodies. The song associated with it today is "Materna," composed by Samuel A. Ward in 1882, but it was also often performed to tune of "Auld Lang Syne."
"Stars and Stripes Forever," John Philip Sousa, 1896. Composed on Christmas Day, "The Stars and Stripes Forever" has become country's official march (US Code, Title 36 Chapter 10). Sousa wrote lyrics to song, but they are little known today (sample: "Let martial note in triumph float / And liberty extend its mighty hand / A flag appears 'mid thunderous cheers, / The banner of Western land.)"
"Yankee Doodle Boy," George M. Cohan, 1904. "You're A Grand Old Flag," George M. Cohan, 1906. "Over There," George M. Cohan, 1917. Known as "the man who owned Broadway," Cohan was a superstar before term was coined. While his film biography is called "Yankee Doodle Dandy," title of his first big tribute to America is actually "The Yankee Doodle Boy." Cohan excited U.S. audiences again in 1906 with "You're a Grand Old Flag," although original line was "You're a Grand Old Rag." It was America's entrance into World War I in 1917 that inspired Cohan to write "Over There," for which he received a congressional medal.
"God Bless America," Irving Berlin, 1938. The prolific Berlin (900+ songs despite being unable to read music) originally wrote this song right after first World War, but did not complete it until just before World War II. Kate Smith first performed it during her radio show on Armistice Day, 1938. An immediate sensation, song was often suggested to replace "Star Spangled Banner" as national anthem.
"Star Spangled Banner," Jimi Hendrix, 1969. The legendary guitarist took stage near dawn on final day of Woodstock Music and Art Fair. The 13th song in his hour-long set was an incendiary rendition of venerable tune. In a performance that was somehow savage and grand at same time, Hendrix wrestled new levels of emotion from song and generations have never heard it quite same way again.
"Apocalypse Now," Francis Ford Coppola, 1979. The music in question is "Ride of Valkyries," from Richard Wagner's opera, "Die Walkure (1854-56). The composition fit perfectly into director Coppola's nightmarish vision of Vietnam War. The sequence, featuring a helicopter attack at dawn, never fails to raise emotions of viewers.
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Scott G owns G-Man Music & Radical Radio (www.gmanmusic.com) where he makes radio commercials for Verizon Wireless, Goodrich, Micron, National Steel, the Auto Club, and many others. He also is recording artist The G-Man, with 4 albums on iTunes and Delvian Records.