Song Lyric Sunday – America the Beautiful

This week for Song Lyric Sunday, host Jim Adams, has given us the prompts Alluring, Beautiful, Charming, Graceful and Seductive. For my choice I have decided in America the Beautiful by the late, great Ray Charles. I hope you enjoy it, especially the video of him opening for the Yankees v Diamondbacks World Series Game 2 in 2001. It came just weeks after the 9/11 attacks and the country was still reeling from the terrible tragedy. It was a time of such sadness and Charles gave a very moving rendition of the song.

The Song

The lyric to “America The Beautiful” was written by a Wellesley College English professor named Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote it as a poem that was first published in 1895. At the time, the term “America” was rarely used in reference to the United States (it does not appear in the “The Star-Spangled Banner”), but over the next few years, when the country claimed Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Cuba, Guam and Hawaii as overseas territories, it was much more than a collection of states and better described as an empire known as America. This song helped popularize the term, which Theodore Roosevelt used regularly when he became president in 1901.

To this point, most patriotic songs referred to the United States as “Columbia,” which was the female personification of the country (“Hail, Columbia” and “Columbia, The Gem Of The Ocean” are examples), and presidents hardly ever referred to “America,” although “American” was commonly used as an adjective.

“America The Beautiful” became a song in 1926 when the poem was combined with the music of a hymn written by Samuel Ward called “Materna” for a contest by the National Federation of Music Clubs. It remained the most popular “America” song until Kate Smith recorded Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” in 1938.

Many Americans feel this should be their National Anthem, rather than the “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Many artists have recorded this, including Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, but Charles’ version is the most famous.

Bates was inspired by the beauty of nature during a lecture tour in Colorado Springs.
She recalled just before her death in 1929: “One day, some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there.”

She continued: “We stood at last on that Gate-of-Heaven summit, hallowed by the worship of perished races, and gazed in wordless rapture over the far expanse… It was then and there, as I was looking out over the sea-like expanse of fertile country spreading away so far under those ample skies, that the opening lines of the hymn floated into my mind.”

The poem first appeared in a Boston church publication called The Congregationalist on July 4, 1895, with the editor’s introductory note: “Miss Bates’s poem has the true patriotic ring pertinent to Fourth of July.”

The original poem described the skies as “halcyon” instead of spacious and the plain as “enameled” instead of fruited.

According to Mark Steyn’s A Song for the Season, Samuel Ward wrote the music that would eventually accompany “America the Beautiful” after a particularly thrilling visit to Coney Island.

On May 25, 1986, millions of Americans joined hands to form a human chain across the country (with sizable gaps) as part of Hands Across America, an effort to ease hunger and homelessness in America. At 3 p.m. Eastern Time, participants began singing “We Are The World,” followed by “America The Beautiful” and the event’s theme song.

The Lyrics

Oh beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife
Who more than self, our country loved
And mercy more than life

America, America may God thy gold refine
Til all success be nobleness
And every gain divined

And you know when I was in school
We used to sing it something like this, listen here

Oh beautiful, for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain

But now wait a minute, I'm talking about
America, sweet America
You know, God done shed his grace on thee
He crowned thy good, yes he did, in brotherhood
From sea to shining sea

You know, I wish I had somebody to help me sing this
(America, America, God shed his grace on thee)
America, I love you America, you see
My God he done shed his grace on thee
And you oughta love him for it
Cause he, he, he ,he crowned thy good
He told me he would, with brotherhood
(From sea to shining Sea)
Oh lord, oh lord, I thank you Lord
(Shining sea)

Lyrics from a song in Public Domain

  16 comments for “Song Lyric Sunday – America the Beautiful

  1. August 2, 2021 at 2:53 pm

    I didn’t realise that America the Beautiful was such an old song. Learned something new today.

    • Christine Bolton
      August 2, 2021 at 10:23 pm

      I just learned that too! ☺️

  2. August 1, 2021 at 9:32 am

    Such a great choice. I find this song so moving, especially when I hear Ray Charles sing it.

    • Christine Bolton
      August 4, 2021 at 8:09 pm

      Thanks Maggie. His is the best version ☺️💕

  3. August 1, 2021 at 7:46 am

    Best way to start the day is listening to this song. Excellent choice Christine!!

    • Christine Bolton
      August 4, 2021 at 8:09 pm

      Thanks Jily ☺️💕

  4. August 1, 2021 at 7:45 am

    Best way to start the day is listening to this song! This is excellent Christine!

    • Christine Bolton
      August 1, 2021 at 8:35 am

      Thanks Jily ☺️🌺💕 Have a great Sunday!

  5. August 1, 2021 at 4:57 am

    Nice choice!! And I agree, Charles truly gave a very moving rendition of the song. 🙂
    I love him!

    • Christine Bolton
      August 1, 2021 at 8:34 am

      Thanks Janis ☺️💕

  6. August 1, 2021 at 1:40 am

    I remember the time in the recent past when I felt America was beautiful. Geographically it still is. Politically not so much anymore.

    • Christine Bolton
      August 1, 2021 at 7:23 am

      Yes you’re right. After 9/11 there was the true meaning of patriotism. Today it’s more like a civil war in this country. Patriotism has lost its meaning.

  7. July 31, 2021 at 11:04 pm

    You can’t get more beautiful than this song Christine. I also wrote a post on this song.
    ttps://jimadamsauthordotcom.wordpress.com/2020/07/02/purple-mountain-majesty/

    • Christine Bolton
      August 4, 2021 at 8:11 pm

      I thought I answered this on Sunday 😧 Sorry Jim. Thanks so much ☺️💕. I know read your post because I remember commenting on the fact it was Sue’s

  8. July 31, 2021 at 10:50 pm

    Good choice!

    • Christine Bolton
      August 2, 2021 at 1:44 am

      Thanks Paula ☺️🌺💕

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