THE POWER AND PURPOSE IN SONG…


I am convinced that few studying American history in the modern era has any idea as to the origins and impact of some of the songs of the American Revolution.  With our revisionism, cancel culture, political correctness, and whitewashing of our true origins we have produced a generation or two of historically illiterate souls.  Denying the past often leads to repeating the mistakes of the past and expanding upon them.  Knowing, our failures and our successes provide a platform from which we can correct mistakes, heal wounds, and ascend to greater heights societally.  Denying an event provides no therapeutic benefit. 

The British frequently sought to demoralize the Americans (Yanks) as they deemed them.  One of our popular songs from that era “Yankee Doodle”, the state song of Connecticut was not originally American but British.  It began as a song making fun of the American troops and smacked with the superior attitude of the Brits toward the colonist.  They considered us sub-human, subservient, and incapable of matching their wealth, wit, or power.  I have and do contend they were right if you disregard the divine hand of providence.  God was on the side of the objective of the colonist. 

The song surfaced before the American Revolution and was an attempt by the British to ridicule and mock the American soldiers.  The term “Yankee” was a derogatory term and in some parts of America still is.  The term “Doodle” was a word that meant “fool” or “simpleton.”  Combing the two, “Yankee Doodle”, the Brits were hurling slurs toward the Americans and expressing their disdain and disregard from them.

The colonist did what I and many believe is what should be done with slander and derogatory slurs.  Take ownership of them and allow them to metamorphose into a source of pride and power.  The devil has co-opted the language of the Bible and the Church and used it effectively against those not knowing the truth.  The rainbow was a sign of Covenant and Life in the Bible, not a symbol of pride for living a lifestyle that is anathema to the Word of God. 

The American colonist developed their own culture, became adept at the use of irony and even sarcasm toward their oppressors.  Many became emboldened as little things such as transforming this song began to take root in the new world.  The Colonists began to take pride in the song and even the terms Yankee Doodle.  In a sense they were saying to the elitists British, you are going to be taken down by Yankee Doodles.  That had to sting as the war progressed and ultimately the Americans were victorious.

One of the earliest references to the song was in the 1767 opera The Disappointment, and we have printed versions dating back to 1775 that mocked a U.S. Army officer from Massachusetts.  It is often presumed that the true origin of the tune “Yankee Doodle” is either Irish or Dutch, rather than British.  Most historians attribute the American version to Dr. Shackburg, who wrote the lyrics in 1755.  Other versions have emerged over the years.  It was used by the South against the North in the Civil War and the North sang it in derision against the South. 

The Star-Spangled Banner is another of our patriotic songs that was originally sung to a drinking song, “To Anacreon in Heaven”.  It is based on a poem written by Francis Scott Key called “Defense of Ft. McHenry.”  In 1812, Key overhead the British plans for attacking Baltimore while onboard a British ship under a flag of truce trying to negotiate the release of a local doctor.  That resulted in Key becoming a prisoner.  Key was so moved to see the American flag still flying proudly the next morning the words from his heart flowed to paper and “The Star-Spangled Banner” became America’s national anthem via President Woodrow Wilson’s executive order in 1916.  Congress took 15 years to confirm this action and made it official in 1931.

Another song, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, written by Julia Ward Howe, the wife of a Boston abolitionist, wrote this hymn during the Civil War after visiting the Union army camped on the Potomac near Washington, D.C.  It appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 1862 and became a rallying cry for the Union soldiers.  It later inspired American soldiers during WWII and has been used by groups since to proclaim their cause as just, good, and right. 

Another song, My Country ‘Tis of the Thee / America written by Samuel Smith as a student in a seminary outside Boston, Massachusetts.  It was based on the melody from the British national anthem, “God Save the King.”  It was first performed in 1831 at a children’s Independence Day celebration in Boston.  It went on to become the de facto national anthem of the United States for most of the 19th century.

The song, America the Beautiful is another powerful anthem, written by Katharine Lee Bates.  She was a young English teacher and poet.  She wrote the song at age 33.  She went on a sightseeing trip to Pike’s Peak, Colorado in 1893 and two years later was still so moved by what she saw she wrote a poem of reflection and gratitude.

In her poem, she captured the lingering impact of the victories and joys experienced by all Americans.  She inserted the reality that all Americans should recognize God’s grace that He has extended to this nation in the historic and dramatic development of this young nation.  The musical setting was developed by Samuel Augustus Ward, in 1882.  While on a ferryboat from Coney Island back to New York City, he wrote the tune in his head.  There have been efforts to replace the Star-Spangled Banner with this song because many believe it is more expressive and less militaristic.  Both songs are widely used today and most Americans, even in our time of cancel everything, want it that way.

Music is inspirational.  The Bible confirms that music created in the human dimension has the power to influence what happens in the spirit world.  God made mankind in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27).  Man was given the same capacity to create and enjoy music that God possesses.  Music is a part of the atmosphere of heaven (Revelation 5:9-11).  We are reminded in Job 38:7 that there was singing at the creation of the world before the devil wrecked it.  Music was used by the prophets, David a master musician used music to quiet the spirit in Saul and to encourage himself in the LORD.

Music in the time of war often serves a dual role.  It is a means of communication and a psychological weapon or tool.  In the Christian life, as revealed in the Bible music is vital to inspire, encourage, and build faith for the war we are engaged in.  The Bible reveals that Lucifer, the devil, was the chief musician of heaven.  Paul identifies that the devil is the prince of the power of the air.  Music is released into the air and affects those around it.  It can be soothing or create extreme agitation. 

I take to heart the word of the apostle Paul in Colossians 3:16, “let the word of Christ dwell richly in you in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”  Music changes the focus and if we fill our mouths with praise and sing to the LORD, we will find our focus turning to him. 

In today’s world, much of the music is vile and violent.  It is filled with filth and encourages every type of abdominal practice known to man.  Yet, there is music that lifts the heart and soul and propels us into the presence of God and into an attitude of worship.  We can choose what we listen to and what we sing.  Music is and has always been vital.  It has played a powerful role in the history of mankind and American history.

God bless you and God bless America!

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