In 1919, George Gershwin and Michael E. O’Rourke set out to win a competition for best national anthem. At the time there was no official national anthem, and mindful of the patriotic mood of a country at war, The New York American put out a call for songwriters to create a song for America.
Published anonymously, Gershwin and Tin Pan Alley lyricist O’Rourke (aka Herbert Reynolds) created a rousing march tune that seems specifically designed to appeal to the most famous of the five judges, John Philip Sousa.
Though they did not capture the $5,000 top prize, their efforts did earn them an honorable mention and $50, which they split between them. Gershwin’s $25 take is the equivalent of $350 in 2016.
Fake-Book PDF: You can download the fake-book style sheet music (chords and melody only) here: o-land-of-mine-america
Here is what it sounds like in my GarageBand version:
The New York American Original Publication PDF: o-land-of-mine-america-p1
And here is the North Carolina Music Educators Association Orchestra playing the fully orchestrated version of the same song in their 2012 reading session:
The orchestral sheet music is available for purchase here. (I get nothing for that promotion, but I thought they deserve that for letting me use the audio clip for educational purposes.)
Here are the complete lyrics:
From the farm, from the shop, from the home, they came when they heard the call.
And they builded a bridge ‘cross the foam, with hand and with heart giving all.
’Twas the call they had waited to hear, the cry of a world in pain,
And a life was a price not too dear, that freedom might ever reign
O Land of Mine, America, with Liberty alight,
Around the world, your flag unfurled, proclaims the dawn of Right.
The stars that fell from out the skies upon your banner bright
Have blazed the way for love to stray, where thundered Freedom’s fight.
Mothers all, North and South, East and West, forever your name shall bless,
And the babe to her bosom is pressed, in safety and happiness
Eyes that once had been working with tears, shall see in your flag above
Starry symbols to last through the years, of Liberty, Life, and Love.