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Local Editorials

Might be time to update state song of Illinois

Happy 194th birthday, Illinois. The state’s song, which is at least 125 years old, might be in need of an update. State leaders could make that project their 200th birthday gift to the state.

Monday was Illinois’ 194th birthday. The state was admitted to the union as the 21st state on Dec. 3, 1818.

In honor of Illinois’ momentous day, a belated, rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday to You” might be in order.

Illinoisans who are a bit more adventurous could take a stab at singing our state song.

The name?

“Illinois, Illinois,” of course.

According to the Illinois State Museum website, C.H. Chamberlain wrote the lyrics, and Archibald Johnston, who was active in the 1870s and 1880s, wrote the music.

The Illinois General Assembly officially established “Illinois, Illinois” as the state song in 1955.


Here goes.

•   •   •

By thy rivers gently flowing, Illinois, Illinois,

O’er thy prairies verdant growing, Illinois, Illinois,

Comes an echo on the breeze.

Rustling through the leafy trees,

and its mellow tones are these, Illinois, Illinois,

And its mellow tones are these, Illinois.

From a wilderness of prairies, Illinois, Illinois,

Straight thy way and never varies, Illinois, Illinois,

Till upon the inland sea,

Stands thy great commercial tree,

turning all the world to thee, Illinois, Illinois,

Turning all the world to thee, Illinois.

When you heard your country calling, Illinois, Illinois,

Where the shot and shell were falling, Illinois, Illinois,

When the Southern host withdrew,

Pitting Gray against the Blue,

There were none more brave than you, Illinois, Illinois,

There were none more brave than you, Illinois.

Not without thy wondrous story, Illinois, Illinois,

Can be writ the nation’s glory, Illinois, Illinois,

On the record of thy years,

Abraham Lincoln’s name appears,

Grant and Logan, and our tears, Illinois, Illinois,

Grant and Logan, and our tears, Illinois.

•   •   •

Illinois’ state song is probably at least 125 years old.

A lot has changed since then.

As the state’s 200th birthday approaches, might it be time to update that sentimental ditty a bit?

For example, the song honors Lincoln and Civil War generals U.S. Grant and John A. Logan.

But since the song was written, the state has been associated with other well-known leaders, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama among them.

Chicago has risen in size and influence to dominate the state, yet it is only alluded to in “Illinois, Illinois.”

Illinois has contributed to the nation in other ways since the era of Lincoln, Grant and Logan. Those accomplishments could be reviewed and some of them memorialized in a revised song.

Illinois has a long list of problems. Revising the state song is at the bottom of the list.

But hey, after the Legislature and governor fix the pension crisis, dig the state out of debt, get all those overdue bills paid, balance the budget, restore funding to public education, rebuild the state’s crumbling infrastructure, and find jobs for everyone, they’re going to need something to do.

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