Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Sad Story of the Washington State Song

Over at Civil War Memory Kevin and the gang have been having sport with the controversy over the Maryland state song. It turns out that the song was written by Confederate sympathizers and denounces Lincoln as a tyrant. Several commenters pointed to other state mottoes with racist or other unfortunate content. So I started researching the Washington State song hoping to get in on the fun. Check this out:

Yes, Louie Louie could have been our state song!

This page has a thumbnail history of the 1985 effort to make Louie Louie our official state song:

Meanwhile, in the state of Washington, more impetus was brewing to push the history of 'Louie Louie' from the unusual to the implausible. Resolution No. 85-12 to the Legislature of the State of Washington by Whatcom County Commissioner Craig Cole called for 'Louie Louie' to be proclaimed the official state song. Citing Washington's need for a 'contemporary theme song that can be used to engender a sense of pride and community, and in the enhancement of tourism and economic development', Cole's resolution 'respectfully memorializes the Washington State Legislature to proclaim 'Louie Louie' as the official state song', and to name a newly created county 'Louie Louie County'.

Louie Louie is a sentimental favorite in Washington, where a Seattle band called The Wailers made it popular in the 1960s. (Here is a video of Wailers front man Jack Ely singing the song to horse.) The state instead declared a Louie Louie Day
, stating among other things:

WHEREAS, Few of our citizens are aware that there is an official theme song; and
WHEREAS, Even fewer of our citizens know the words or could carry the tune ...

So the legislature ducked the issue. But why was there a movement to change the song at all? Because the exisiting state song sounds like it was written by a committee of Girl Scouts:

Washington, My Home
Written by Helen Davis
Arranged by Stuart Churchill

This is my country; God gave it to me;
I will protect it, ever keep it free.
Small towns and cities rest here in the sun,
Filled with our laughter, 'Thy will be done.'

Washington my home;
Where ever I may roam;
This is my land, my native land,
Washington, my home.
Our verdant forest green,
Caressed by silvery stream;
From mountain peak to fields of wheat.
Washington, my home.

There's peace you feel and understand
In this, our own beloved land.
We greet the day with head held high,
And forward ever is our cry.
We'll happy ever be
As people always free.
For you and me a destiny;
Washington my home."

It sounds worse than is scans--try the MP3.

Perhaps the time has come to renew the effort to change the song to Louis Louie?


Kratz said...

Louie Louie forever!!!

Anonymous said...

A link to the audio of "Washington My Home" can be found on the Legislature's website:

A lot of sources compromise and indicate that Louie Louie is the state "rock song." I don't think that is official, but if we have a state tartan, why not a state rock song?

Larry Cebula said...

Mary: Apparently Washington My Home replaced an earlier song written by historian Edmond Meany. Do you know anything about it?

Anonymous said...

Found some good stuff on "Washington Beloved" in our files, including the sheet music and an old article about its writing and its history as the "state anthem" from PNQ (April 1960). Quotage: "The legislature resolved with the best intentions, but it could not prolong the life of an anthem suffering from anemia."

Happy to provide any copies to interested parties.

Also noteworthy: "Roll On Columbia" is Washington's Official State Folk Song. Time to make Louie Louie official!

Anonymous said...

I think Louie Louie pails in comparison to our state song. How dare you mock our culture and heritage. The song intro "This is my country; God gave it to me;
I will protect it, ever keep it free." shows the dedication to freedom in our country that has been lacking ever since. Did you know that in 1965 our state govt. went vacant? "There are none more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." However, I do think a state rock song would be in order.

Larry Cebula said...

Anonymous: My Indian friends say that God gave the land to them and that we stole it!

Heritage or no, our state song is a dog. When was the last time you heard it sung in public? There is no purpose in a song that no one sings.

Pallid said...

Sang both "Washington" and "Roll On" (by Woodie Guthrie, btw) many many times at school and summer activities.

"Roll On" is also a tip top drinking song!

I'm about as excited about claiming "Louie, Louie" as I am about claiming Ted Bundy, Westley Allen Dodd and Paul Kenneth Keller!

Unknown said...

Does anyone know if there is a source available of the sheet music for "Washington My Home"??
Thanks for any help you may have!

kevinlynch1 said...

I would love to get some information on 'Hymn to the Evergreen State' by the very popular songwriter Charles L. Johnson. It was composed in 1906 and published that year by the Evergreen State Song Bureau in Vancouver, Wa. Could this have been our first state song?

J. Allison said...

If you still want in on the fun, look into the state folk song... and the verses that's aren't included in the "offical" state version.