Special Report

The History Behind Each of America’s National Anthems, Songs, and Marches

Source: Frank Micelotta / Getty Images

30. Living in America
> Author: Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight
> Year written: 1985

“Living in America” is James Brown’s soulful paean to the American spirit, reaching No.10 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop song chart in February of 1986. The song got an extra boost when it was played during the film “Rocky 4.”

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29. Hail to the Chief
> Author: James Sanderson
> Year written: 1812

The song that signals the entrance of an American president has its origins in the early 19th century. “Hail to the Chief” is derived from a song that has its roots in an old Scottish anthem that was performed in a play in New York, where the song found wide appeal. It was then used at an event in Boston in remembrance of George Washington in 1815. Fourteen years later, Andrew Jackson became the first living U.S. president to be honored by the fanfare.

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

28. America
> Author: Simon & Garfunkel
> Year written: 1968

Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” was a song written as prose and was a mainstay on the airwaves following its 1968 release. The song tapped into a yearning among Americans for something to believe in as their country was being torn apart by the Vietnam War. Paul Simon gave presidential candidate Bernie Sanders permission to use the song during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Source: U.S. Coast Guard / Getty Images

27. Semper Paratus (Song of Coast Guard)
> Author: Francis Van Boskerck
> Year written: 1927

“Semper Paratus” is the anthem of the Coast Guard, which was formed in 1915. Francis Van Boskerck, a captain in the Coast Guard, wrote the music and lyrics for the song, whose title is Latin for “Always Ready.” The song was introduced in the presence of an elderly John Philip Sousa, America’s greatest composer of marches, who helped with the arrangement of the anthem.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

26. Hail Columbia
> Author: Joseph Hopkinson
> Year written: 1798

“Hail Columbia” was based on music composed by German immigrant Philip Phile, and the words were written in 1789 by Philadelphia judge Joseph Hopkinson. The song was titled “Washington’s March,” or “President’s March” to honor George Washington, who was traveling through New Jersey on his way to New York City for his presidential inauguration. Eventually, Hopkinson changed the song’s title to “Hail Columbia” at the request of singer-actor Gilbert Fox in 1798. Fox performed the song at a concert in Philadelphia, and it was a sensation. Among those who eventually heard the song was President John Adams. The song was considered the unofficial national anthem up until the 1890s.