Time now for the planets to line up. If they hadn't—if the parallel lives of Sam Ward and Katharine Lee Bates had never intersected—we'd be singing a very different tune. Lucky for us, a song was born.
Marvin Hamlisch was sitting at the piano, demonstrating with gusto why the music to "America the Beautiful" works so well. "It's simple and sweet," said the composer of A Chorus Line and an array of other Broadway and Hollywood megabits, running his fingers across the keys. Then he slid into the refrain, raising his voice with the high notes and belting out the words like a kid in the choir: "A-MER-i..." Mid-syllable he stopped and turned to me excitedly. "It's that climb up, that jump to 'America!' that gives you a feeling
Katharine Lee Bates, 1895