In 1919, George Gershwin and Michael E. 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 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.
Gershwin’s Anthem NEW Lyrics Competition
EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to everyone who participated! The 2019 Lyrics Contest Winner’s sheet music is available here: O Land of Mine, America – 2019 update
Calling all Americans: This song needs new and inspiring lyrics that we all can be proud to sing. America deserves a patriotic song by its preeminent composer. Please help spread the word on this issue in advance of its centennial. The deadline for entries is 11/11/2018. The winner will be announced on 3/2/2019, the 100th anniversary of the publishing of Gershwin’s anthem. Please e-mail all lyric entries (one verse and one refrain minimum) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Download a NEW Lyrics Worksheet (with sheet music) here: Gershwin’s Anthem Worksheet
Download a PDF of the fake-book style sheet music (chords and melody only) to “O Land of Mine, America” here: O Land of Mine, America7-4
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.)
Lyrics to “O Land of Mine, America” by Michael E. Rourke:
From the farm, from the shop, from the home, they came when they heard you 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 none 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 burning with tears, shall see in your flag above
Starry symbols to last through the years, of Liberty, Life, and Love.