We Need a New State Song
When I was growing up, the Texas school curriculum provided seventh graders with an entire year of Texas history. Some states don’t teach their own state histories apart from American History but our state has a rich enough story to easily fill a year of study. As part of our lesson, in between Jim Bowie and Moses Austin and Pappy O’Daniel, we were required to sing the State Song, Texas Our Texas. This was pure torture for me. To start with, I hated the song. I thought it was pompous and churchy and took itself altogether too seriously. When you add to that the fact that it’s even more impossible for an average baritone to sing than The Star Spangled Banner even when your voice isn’t changing, we have a recipe for seventh-grade embarrassment.
I suppose that anthems, by definition, are cheesy and pompous and all tres’ grandiose, but with all respect to William J. Marsh of Fort Worth and Gladys Yoakum Wright who wrote TOT in the nineteen twenties, the tune is a lame clinker that should have been forgotten like Prohibition by the Thirties. But instead it was adopted by the Texas Legislature in 1929 and seventh-graders and the rest of us have endured it ever since.
Sure, Texas Our Texas is rousing enough when done by a marching band and it talks about glory and the Alamo and how great we are but these things are found in any generic high-school song. It doesn’t sound at all like any music born in Texas, it sounds like it came from the Sears Catalogue. What compounds this tragedy is that Texas has so much fine home-grown music and so many poets and songwriters who actually have their boots planted in the soil of Texas music tradition.
If you ask someone who has gone to school in Texas to name the State Song, they will likely say correctly that it is TOT. But if you ask almost anyone else what the State Song of Texas is, they will more probably say, “The Eyes of Texas,” which is the fight song for the University of Texas Longhorns or ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas.’ This is because Texas Our Texas is not exactly a catchy tune.
Texas has given the nation many things, oil, cattle, the Heisman Trophy, Roe v. Wade. The first word spoken from the moon was ‘Houston.’ Surely we can come up with a better State Song than Texas Our Texas. We don’t just have more oil, cattle, sheep, minerals, cotton and wool than any other state, we’ve got more music too. Just from Ft. Worth we have everything from Van Clyburn to Ornette Coleman by way of Toni Tennille and Delbert McClinton. Austin has more musicians than NY has bedbugs. Dallas gave us a host from Blind Lemmon Jefferson to Red Garland and Fathead to Stevie Ray Vaughn. Lubbock got Buddy and Roy Orbison, San Antone got Sir Doug and Freddie Fender. There are 6,386 towns in Texas and I could go on. I think the State Song should be whatever Willy Nelson is singing at any given moment. But that’s just one poet’s opinion.
This is why The Poet’s Eye is looking for a new State Song for Texas. Let’s face it folks, it’s about time for one. TOT doesn’t match the times or the face of Texas. You can’t taste the chile peppers or hear the mariachi anywhere in Texas Our Texas, The blues is nowhere to be found and I can’t hear the gospel from the 4th Ward or the prairie songs of the cowboys. Not a trace of Country Swing or Indian chants or German polkas. Texas is a great state with great music. We need a Grammy winning State Song, not Texas Our Texas which always sounds like it is being performed by my grandmother’s church choir. If Mariah Carrey and Josh Grobin sang it, it would still be a stinker.
Texas Our Texas was chosen as State Song of Texas in a statewide competition. It was a contest like American Idol. I don’t know who the judges were but they must have been from out of state. The Poet’s Eye proposes a new contest to choose a better, more contemporary and relevant State Song. Texas deserves the best and we have the best to offer. To this end, The Poet’s Eye will shortly be announcing such a contest. Stay tuned.
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I called my estate Temporary, Texas
barbed wire was illegal there
the place was protected by paradox and
the ephemeral shadow of the dove
I wasn’t afraid to invest in the temporary
to love, to love knowing
knowing all the while that the object of my love
the person, place or nation
the ideal or creed or livelihood,
all sentiment, sensation
would vanish, be stolen by time
a tent was temple to my religion
time and rent the devils of my panoply
the mantra, chant, the litany: “It Comes and Goes.
It Comes and Goes. Rama Jah Ohm”
God watches his body decay like an echo
if anything is eternal, infinite
it is God’s threshold of pain
mountains crumble, oceans drain
the universe a sore against the grain
time before and time again
It Comes and Goes, It Comes and Goes.
Rama Jah Ohm
Meanwhile back in Temporary, Texas
the sheriff sucks the smoke from the barrel of his gun
time is the outlaw, no jail can hold him.
He nails a poster to a tree
it says, “WANTED–ETERNITY.”
It Comes and Goes, It Comes and Goes.
–Lrod, music by Gremillion