Evening Edition - July 4

Less than 3 minute read

July 4, 2019

Around the Fourth of July, we hear a lot of songs about all the great things about America: “God Bless America,” “God Bless The USA,” “America the Beautiful.”  All week long, our resident musicologist Pat Reeder has been reminding us that there are many more we seldom hear. But before them all, even before “The Star-Spangled Banner,” there was the original American patriotic anthem, “Yankee Doodle.” But it didn’t start out as a celebration of Americans, but as a mockery of them.

Since 1776, the song “Yankee Doodle” has been as much a symbol of America as the flag.  Every child learns it from the cradle. But many of us grew up without ever knowing what it really means.  Like, why did he call his cap macaroni?  Did he use cheese for hair mousse?  Well, I’ll finally give you the answers to those questions and more.

“Yankee Doodle” actually dates back long before 1776.  It most likely started as a German nursery rhyme, since “dudel” is an Old German word for “fool.”  It first became associated with America when British soldiers made up their own lyrics to it to mock the ragtag American Revolutionaries. That baffling line – “stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni” – makes sense when you know that a macaroni wig was one of those ridiculously large powdered wigs that dandies of the time wore. The Brits were ridiculing Americans as a bunch of hayseeds, so dumb they’d think sticking a feather in their hat would make them look sophisticated. Imagine a Huffington Post article about Trump voters from Alabama, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of just how much arrogant condescension they intended to convey with that. 

Unfortunately for the British, it turned out wars weren’t settled according to who had the spiffiest uniforms (in fact, red coats just made you a brighter target.) Those unfashionable Americans were fighting for their homes, their families and their freedom.  So they did what Americans have done ever since: they took the ridicule aimed at them, threw it back in the faces of those who mocked them, and got the last laugh. 

The Americans took the song “Yankee Doodle” that was meant to belittle them and adopted it as their anthem.  They marched to it in the streets, sang it in bars, and made up their own new lyrics to promote the cause of freedom and glorify leaders like General Washington, “upon his strapping stallion.” It wasn’t long before the British learned to dread the sound of that tune, especially when it was played on a fife and drum, accompanied by American militiamen.  A Boston newspaper reported that Minutemen who captured two British officers forced them to dance to “Yankee Doodle” until they collapsed.  After that, the Brits admitted that that mocking little song didn’t sound so sweet to them anymore. 

Well, now you know how “Yankee Doodle” came to be the unofficial American battle anthem that later inspired another great patriotic song for this time of year, George M. Cohan’s “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”  As Cohan proudly sang, “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy, a Yankee Doodle, do or die…A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam, Born on the Fourth of July!” 

Of course, Cohan was actually born on the third of July.  But that’s another story for another day. 







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Comments 1-24 of 24

  • Wayne Hilchen

    07/05/2019 03:04 PM

    Had a chance to watch Yankee Doodle on Turner Classics yesterday, the 4th of July. That's the story of George M Cohan's Yankee Doodle played by James Cagney. It was great that Donald Trump put the focus on the greatness of America and what we stand for. More people need to hear that message.

  • Amy M Meads

    07/05/2019 11:48 AM

    Love it.

  • Gary Reese

    07/05/2019 05:05 AM

    Always a good lesson taught by a gifted teacher. I hope that you enjoy your family this holiday weekend. I was pleased with the tone of President Trump's message yesterday and his salute to America. He kept the politics out of it. If the left can say that this was only about Donald Trump (they seem to drop the title President) and not about simply Patriotism, we know their pants are on fire.

  • Elizabeth Honaker

    07/05/2019 03:00 AM

    Governor, you really served us all a healthy dose of American Pride (and NOT the kind that dances naked in the street!). Thank you. A patriot believes in her country, even when thousands ridicule it and make the most outrageous statements (like AOC).

  • Shelley Jordan

    07/05/2019 01:00 AM

    Wow, thank you for the awesome detail and your incredible writing that empasizes American greatness!! God Bless America!!

  • Sara Eads

    07/05/2019 12:32 AM

    I found this so interesting.
    Sara Eads

  • william fuhrer

    07/05/2019 12:26 AM

    Ingram Angle had a young girl who wore a MAKE AMERICA GREAT hat to school and her teacher said she was inciting violence

  • Catherine Fortin

    07/05/2019 12:25 AM

    Thank you for that little bit of history. I always enjoyed singing that song.
    It makes me feel happy.
    Happy July 4th to all.

  • Ron Besse

    07/04/2019 10:52 PM

    I watched Yankee Doodle Dandy tonight again as I do every time it appears on T.V. Couldn't watch all of it because I was watching the 4th celebration in D.C. as well. It didn't hurt to miss some of it since I have watched it maybe 20 times or maybe more since I have been around for 3/4 of century now. Totally disappointed in ABC, NBC, and CBS for not showing the celebration although NBC was showing the Macy's celebration. I have totally had it with these major networks since Nov. 2016.

  • Ruth Hoefert

    07/04/2019 10:24 PM

    I really enjoyed learning this extra information!

  • James R Jardine

    07/04/2019 09:05 PM

    Thank You for this information. Loved it. I read you every day.

  • Anita Mae Barker

    07/04/2019 08:48 PM

    LOve that explanation. Thanks!!

  • Janet Elliott

    07/04/2019 08:40 PM

    Thank you for that bit of history of "Yankee Doodle". I sang it in school as a child, but didn't understand what the song was really about. The music teacher didn't clue us in. She probably didn't know either. Again, thanks, Gov. God bless.

  • Flowers Twila

    07/04/2019 08:12 PM

    Thanks for that great bit of history.

  • gary stilwell

    07/04/2019 08:10 PM

    In the President's July 4th speech, when the Battle Hymn was played, I thought I saw Melania mouthing the words-at least the tune, her husband, however, had no lip movements. Am I to believe this man does not know the words to this Hymn? On such an important occasion, you would expect at least some outward acknowledgement of this refrain.--The hymn usually brings tears to the eyes of true patriots--it does to mine--every time I hear it--that includes the 1812 Overture

    And over these proceedings the President chooses to wear the worn out red 'Power Tie'----
    Our Country is not some bully in the world that we must demonstrate our military might in front of everyone(watch Russia, or China's parades--they strut out all their weapons and claim how great their might is)--I am of the opinion the US does NOT need to copy this sort of bragging--as a matter of fact, it lessens our credibility on the world stage. It also sets us up to be the loudmouth that needs to be knocked down a few notches---
    Our Country is FREE--we welcome all to come here and be a part of our culture--we do not dictate what the rest of the world must do---
    A blue tie would have been more appropriate.

  • Linda C. Furlong

    07/04/2019 07:24 PM

    Watching President Trump now & just loving it.

  • Twila Hughes

    07/04/2019 06:49 PM

    Loved the story. Never heard much of it before. Thanks

  • Jerry korba

    07/04/2019 06:37 PM

    I wish to sing the song to our snobs on the left 1/20/2020

  • Stephen H. Thomas

    07/04/2019 06:28 PM

    Thank you for those bits of information... With the Huckabee newsletter I am becoming a wealth of knowledge.

  • Beverly A Meschede

    07/04/2019 06:26 PM

    Happy Fourth! I fully appreciate the patriotism of your family in serving this great nation. I was honored to travel as a student to Europe where I was very aware of my American roots and conscious of being an ambassador for our country wherever I went. I wish all Americans were that aware now. I hate when unthinking travelers give our country a bad name. However, some are the sort that they leave a bad impression wherever they go. We must BE the person we want others to SEE. We must be mindful of that, especially now in this world of social media. Blessings to you and your family.

  • Pamela Elms Scott

    07/04/2019 06:21 PM

    I’ve been reading your daily commentaries for quite some time. They are inspirational, timely and so informative. Thank you for your dedication to preserving our freedoms.

  • Judith Lyon

    07/04/2019 06:11 PM

    Thank you for the history lesson. We have such rich history that none of us were taught. Too bad some want to change or destroy. History

  • Joanna Butler

    07/04/2019 06:05 PM

    Love the history lesson! Happy Independence Day!

  • Harold Pawlowski

    07/04/2019 06:02 PM

    Thanks for the "rest of the story". I love it!