A State Without a Song: How Close are we to Having One Again?

Feb 9, 2015

Virginia’s House is set to vote on a new state song, with committee members approving one option over another - predictably, along party lines. 

The Commonwealth has been without an official song since Governor Wilder raised objections to Carry Me Back to Old Virginia, a tune with lyrics that fondly recalled a time of slavery.  Two replacements were in contention when the House Rules Committee met last week.  One is a folk classic - Oh Shenandoah, with a new set of lyrics and a new title - Our Great Virginia.

“You’ll always be our great Virginia.  You’re the heartland of the nation, where history was changed forever.  Today, your glory stays as we build tomorrow.”

Noting that Virginia is not the heartland of the nation, but a state in the Mid-Atlantic, Richmond songwriter Susan Greenbaum offered an alternative, and had a group of school kids singing along as her composition played.  It’s called Virginia, the Home of my Heart.

Mark Keam of Fairfax and William Howell of Stafford put their bi-partisan stamp of approval on the first tune, and every Republican on the committee went along, to give Our Great Virginia the win.  Greenbaum was reduced to tears, pointing out that Oh Shenandoah was written about the mountains of Missouri.

The measure now goes to the full House, but even if Our Great Virginia wins approval there, the Senate may take a pass.  Two measures promoting songs have so far languished in Senate committees.