Words & lyrics by Jan Hinton
Florida, where the sawgrass meets the sky, Florida, where our hearts will ever lie, Sitting proud in the ocean like a sentinel true, Always shielding your own yet giving welcome. Florida, land of flowers, land of light, Florida, where our dreams can all take flight, Whether youth's vibrant morning or the twilight of years, There are treasures for all who venture here - in Florida. Mocking birds cry and 'gators lie out in the sun Bridges span southward to the Keys and rockets skyward run, The orange blossoms' sweet perfume and fireworks fill the air, And cultures rich, our native people share. Florida, where the sawgrass meets the sky, Florida, where our hearts will ever lie, Sitting proud in the ocean like a sentinel true, Always shielding your own yet giving welcome. Florida, land of flowers, land of light, Florida, where our dreams can all take flight, Whether youth's vibrant morning or the twilight of years, There are treasures for all who venture here in Florida, Florida.
Today, , Florida has an official state song and an official state anthem. The current state song was adopted in 1935 and the state anthem was adopted in 2008.
In 1893, the Reverend Chastain V. Waugh took up a position at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College in Lake City, Florida. Skilled in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, German, French, and Spanish, he served as professor of ancient and modern languages.
In 1906 Florida Agriculture and Mechanical College became the University of Florida and Rev. Waugh wrote "Florida, My Florida."
"Florida, My Florida" extolled the virtues of the state from "sunkissed land," the "Gulf and Ocean grand," the "golden fruit," and the "gardens" to the state's "phosphate mines," important to the wealth and economic health of citizens of Florida.
It was sung to the tune of "O Tannenbaum (Oh, Christmas Tree) and had become a mainstay in may public school activities by the time the Florida Legislature honored the song with the title of "official."
On May 12, 1913, Governor Park Monroe Trammell signed House Concurrent Resolution No. 24, providing Florida with its first state song.
Waugh died in 1935 and with him went his song.
On May 29, 1935, Governor David Sholtz signed House Concurrent Resolution No. 22. The measure declared "The S'wanee River (Old Folks at Home), " by Stephen Foster, the official song of the State of Florida and repealed 1913's House Concurrent Resolution No. 24, The Laws of Florida, Acts of 1913.
Trouble lay ahead for this new state song.
It took time for trouble to gain steam, but gather momentum it did. The trouble that emerged was embodied in the implications of the song that seem so obvious and unacceptable to us today. Simply put, the language and subject matter were decried as racist, recalling slavery and the subjugation of African-Americans in American history.
As time passed, calls to replace "The S'wanee River (Old Folks at Home)" became more demanding. Attempts to sanitize the song with more acceptable language were dismissed. It was simply not enough to replace "darkies" with "loved ones" and "ribber" with "river."
The Civil Rights movement and even political necessity forced the issue.
A failed attempt to change the state song from "The S'wanee River (Old Folks at Home)" was made in 1983.
In 1997, House Bill No 1069 proposed formation of an 11-member State Song Committee to sponsor a contest for a new state song. This effort also failed.
At Governor Jeb Bush's two inauguration ceremonies (1999 and 2003), "The S'wanee River (Old Folks at Home)," with modified lyrics, was performed by African-American women; Lisa Kemp and Ardelia Butts, respectively.
At the 2007 inauguration ceremony for Governor Charlie Christ the official song of the State of Florida, sanitized or otherwise, was missing in action. Political expediency was taking hold.
Christ purposefully made the choice not to use the song at his inauguration. Instead, "Florida's Song" by Charles Atkins, was performed.
"There are lyrics in it that are, in the opinion of some, a derogatory reference to some time in our historical past that involves slavery," Crist said. "I can't condone it."
On May 15, 2007, the Florida Music Educators Association, with the support of Florida State Senator Tony Hill, Governor Charlie Christ, and others, launched a contest to choose a new state song. With a website supporting the project, by offering a forum for suggestions and submissions, and submission guidelines, the "Just Sing, Florida!" contest was off and running.
The "Just Sing, Florida!" contest ran from May 15 to October 1, 2007.
243 entries were reviewed by a 6-member panel, composed of members of the Florida Music Educators Association. The panel initially winnowed the entries to the top twenty with the greatest potential. This group of candidates was then slashed to three top choices. The top three selections were posted to the "Just Sing, Florida!" website in December, 2007 and citizens were urged to express their preference online.
The final three panel selections were "Florida, Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky," by Jan Hinton of Boynton Beach, "My Florida Home," by Christopher Marshall of Orlando; and "Florida, My Home," by Carl Ashley of Boynton Beach and Betsy Dixon of Lantana.
Once the contest winner was announced, Senator Tony Hill and Representative Ed Homan were prepared to file legislation to formally change the state song.
Internet voting commenced in December, 2007 and ended on January 10, 2008. At noon on January 11, 2008, the winner of the online poll was announced. "Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky," by Jan Hinton was the overwhelming favorite among the three finalists. It received more than half of the 8,020 votes cast.
Picking a song in this way might seem reasonable to some, but others voiced some objection.
Indeed, only three of the 243 song offerings were subject to public opinion. These three were selected by the members of the Florida Music Educator's Association.
"Florida's Song," performed at the inauguration ceremony of Governor Charlie Christ was submitted as a candidate but did not make the final cut.
On January 7, three days before the "Just Sing, Florida!" ended, TransMedia Group, representing a committee, "Hold the Florida State Song Vote," issued a press release urging an end to the "Just Sing, Florida!" voting and designate Florida's Welcome Song, "Florida," by Lawrence Hurwit and Israel Abrams, the official song of the State of Florida.
Newly Formed Committee Seeks to Include Florida's Official Welcome Song, Florida' as Official State Song
MIAMI, Jan. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- A newly formed committee, 'Hold the Florida State Song Vote', has retained TransMedia Group to publicize their campaign to stop the vote seeking to replace The Swanee River with a new state song and name Florida, Florida's current Welcome Song, as the official state song. Florida, written by Lawrence Hurwit and Israel Abrams, was named the official state welcome song in 1985.
"Florida is a catchy song that evokes light-heartedness and fun – all things associated with the Snshine State. Florida was written after Governor of Florida Bob Graham requested that Hurwit create an official song and the Florida House of Representatives voted in the song. It only makes sense to name the official state song as one already deemed important by our government," said Tom Madden, Founder and CEO of TransMedia Group.
With Hurwit's successful background in composing and orchestrating music, Governor Graham asked Hurwit to use Florida as an inspiration for a song.
"Being a tourist turned long-time resident of Florida, I tapped into my experiences to write this ballad. After all, Florida welcomes people around the world to come and bask in sun with us," said Lawrence Hurwit.
The voting for the song ends on January 10th and Florida is not among the finalists chosen. The committee to 'Hold the Florida State Song Vote' urges Florida residents to visit www.floridawelcomesong.com. Committee member Susan Cutaia says, "We already have an official song and it's been ignored in this competition. All we want is for everyone to hear Florida and then decide for themselves if it's worthy to be considered a finalist." The winner will be decided by popular vote at www.justsingflorida.org.
Also on January 7, State Representative Dave Murzin filed House Bill No. 463 nominating "Oh Florida, My Sweet Home," by Graham W. Fountain and Warren L. Halstrom, as Florida's official state anthem!. Rep. Murzin said that many of his constituents preferred to keep the current state song and didn't like any of the three candidates proposed by the "Just Sing, Florida!" contest.
Meanwhile, Senator Tony Hill and Representative Ed Homan were crafting legislation to declare the winner of the "Just Sing, Florida!" contest the official state song of Florida, replacing "The S'wanee River (Old Folks at Home)."
On February 5, 2007, Senator Hill filed Senate Bill No. 1558 (SB1558) in the Florida State Senate and Rep. Homan filed House Bill No. 825 (HB825) in the Florida State House of Representatives.
With the end of the contest and initial efforts to replace the current state song, "The S'wanee River (Old Folks at Home)" with a new state song, "Florida, Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky," it was clear that it would be a rocky ride for both bills.
On March 13, 2008, HB825 was unexpectedly reported favorably out of the House Committee on Tourism and Trade with a 6-0 vote.
On the same day SB1558 was reported favorably out of the Senate Committee on Governmental Operations, barely. The vote was 3-2. One Senator, objecting to replacing the state song with a new one, said that the current song was especially important to those who live in districts where the Suwanee River flowed. Another claimed that the new song was too difficult for children to sing.
"This is history," said Sen. Stephen Oelrich, R-Gainesville, whose district is surrounded by the Suwanee. "I'm not in favor of changing the song. Nor are my constituents."
Oelrich's chief of staff, Michael Preston, said the senator has received "hundreds of calls from people saying, 'Don't change the song.' We haven't had any calls in support of changing it. People have a sense of heritage with the song. They grew up around the Suwanee."
Senator King voted reluctantly in favor of SB1558, allowing it to proceed to the committee on Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations. He warned, however, that he was not likely to vote in favor of it again.
Senator King's warning likely meant trouble for the SB1558. King was the chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and the bill would have to pass out of that committee before it was allowed a full vote of the Senate.
"Tony Hill has fought the good fight on this," King said. "But I would be surprised at this point if we don't end up passing the old song with new words, at least in the Senate."
King made good on his words and, on April 24, 2008, SB1558 was amended in the Rules committee to designate "Florida, Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky" the official anthem of the State of Florida and retain "The S'wanee River (Old Folks at Home)," as the official song of the State of Florida. The amended bill provided for revised lyrics of "Old Folks at Home" as adopted by the Center for American Music, Stephen 22 Foster Memorial, at the University of Pittsburgh."
The amended version of SB1558 passed the vote of the full Senate on the same day and was passed back to the Florida House of Representatives for their consideration.
The legislative compromise, an amended SB1558, was enough to secure the approval of the House on May 1st.
"Florida, Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky" became Florida's official state anthem and "Old Folks at Home," with revised title/words remained Florida's official state song when Governor Charlie Christ reluctantly signed an amended Senate Bill No. 1558 on June 30, 2008.
"I didn't have it played at my inauguration for a reason," Crist said this week, disappointed with the compromise reached by lawmakers to update the song and add an anthem. Crist said the agreement made the state look "confused."
The following information was excerpted from the Florida Statutes, Title 4, Chapter 15.
TITLE IV. EXECUTIVE BRANCH
Chapter 15. SECRETARY OF STATE
15.0326 State anthem.The song "Florida, Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky," music and lyrics written by Jan Hinton, is designated as the official anthem of the State of Florida.
History.s. 1, ch. 2008-233.
"Florida Statutes". The Florida Legislature, <http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?Mode=View%20Statutes&Submenu=1&Tab=statutes>, January 28, 2009.
State anthems: Complete list of official state anthems from NETSTATE.COM
More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official Florida state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.
State Songs of America, by Michael J. Bristow. 185 pages. Publisher: Greenwood (February 28, 2000)
State Songs of America provides the music and lyrics for the official songs adopted by the state governments. Arranged alphabetically by state, each song has a single vocal line over a piano accompaniment, with one verse only under the vocal line and remaining verses appearing separately. Each entry includes the date the song was adopted, the name of the composer, and in some instances, a brief history of the song. The book will be a useful reference for those wanting to perform a state song or to find the official songs of other states. Keep in mind that this book was published in 2000 and does not contain later adoptions.
State Songs: Anthems and Their Origins, by John Hladczuk, Sharon Schneider Hladczuk. 240 pages. Publisher: Scarecrow Press (September 26, 2000)
State Songs: Anthems and Their Origins is a tremendous resource, from which readers will gain insight into the heritage of American statehood. Histories of these songs, biographical information about the composers and lyricists, and background on each song's entrance into status as "official" make this source the most comprehensive in existence. The entries include sheet music, allowing readers to reproduce for themselves the tunes that have proved so important in the history of the Union. Music teachers, history teachers, librarians, and anyone else interested in learning more about the United States will not want to be without State Songs. Organized alphabetically by state. Keep in mind that this book was published in 2000 and does not contain later adoptions.
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