Some July 4th Love: John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” Performed by The Boston Pops Orchestra and Conducted by John Williams
Well, even progressives can have favorite patriotic songs and anthems and marches, and one of mine is Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” This version is less up tempo than one conducted by Leonard Bernstein on You Tube. And unfortunately, there is no link to the famous one starring the late Arthur Fiedler, whose shoes John Williams was filling, on July 4th of the Bicentennial. The old man, the son of immigrants, seemed to make the march go on and on that evening, and I think the television audience as well as the thousands in Boston Harbor were probably whipped up with emotion by the time Fiedler and the orchestra concluded.
The Bicentennial, as I remember it, was not a great time in the life of the Republic. Watergate had exposed the sins of not only President Nixon, but of our government. We had “lost” Vietnam. J. Edgar Hoover‘s COINTELPRO showed the extent of the man’s preoccupation with suppressing black activism, from Martin Luther King to the Black Panthers. People certainly wondered what was the use of celebrating anything. There was more apathy and squabbling than serious introspection about who and what we were, and how we and the country would go on. That moment in time in Boston was a reason to celebrate that we were still here despite everything.
The American March King wrote “The Stars and Stripes Forever” in response to his return to the U.S. after a long European sabbatical, and to the recent death of his band manager David Blakely. He composed the march in his head, and committed the notes to paper soon upon his arrival. The march debuted in 1897 on Flag Day, May 14 to great acclaim. If you ever wondered whether there were lyrics, here they are. They are not, however, the ones you may have heard in cartoons or parodies.
What am I going to do today? The mercury is going to top 100° here in Madison, so I am not going to do much out of doors without access to some place cool, or failing that, an umbrella. Tomorrow is another work day. But true patriotism is not jingoism or nationalism. It is not subscribing to a kind of exceptionalism. It is the kind of feeling that does not require flapping a flag on a car antenna. America is in the heart.
- Star Spangled Birther: Meet John Philip Sousa IV (motherjones.com)
- A century later, John Philip Sousa’s marches still quicken the pulse (stripes.com)
- Monday Musings for Baby Boomers – Stars and Stripes Forever! – The Muppets (babyboomersus.net)