America the Beautiful: The Stirring True Story behind Our Nations's Favorite Song

By Lynn Sherr | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

This is a story about hope and dreams and the sure, undiluted patriotism of another era.

It is the real-life legend of a gifted young poet from New England who saw her country clearly from a mountaintop in Colorado and turned her vision into timeless verse. It is the unlikely tale of a modest young musician from New Jersey who conceived a melody of uncommon dignity after a splendid day at the seashore. The woman and the man never met— never even communicated—but their soaring creations so seamlessly captured the American spirit, the two would be linked forever in our national heritage.

Above all, this is a story about America.

America the Beautiful.

Why a biography of a song? Because this one gives us goosebumps. Because this one makes us proud. And because this one weaves the essence of our past and the promise of our future into a lyric of boundless optimism.

We've all sung it a thousand times, and most of us know at least the first verse by heart (although some get it wrong. One woman actually admits thinking it was, "O beautiful for spaceship guys." A third-grader who drew a picture of a jumbo jet laden with oranges, grapes, and bananas told his teacher his artwork was "the fruited plane").

It's gotten us through some of our bleakest moments: on the battlefields of World War I, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, in the wake of the horror that a youthful president had been murdered. And it's helped salute our biggest stars: at countless commencements and inaugurals, at the World Series, anywhere there's a champion or a party. Ray Charles electrified the Super Bowl audience in 2001 with his soulful version.

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America the Beautiful: The Stirring True Story behind Our Nations's Favorite Song
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • America the Beautiful *
  • Contents *
  • Introduction 9
  • The Poem 13
  • The Music 39
  • The Song 55
  • The Meaning 71
  • The Anthem 81
  • The Legacy 95
  • Acknowledgments 115
  • Photo Credits 117
  • Selected Bibliography 119
  • Index 121
  • A Note about the Author 125
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