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July 4, 2023

Usually 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” (although you might not have heard them this year because of some people whining that hearing God’s name or praise for America “triggers” them.) But before them all, even before “The Star-Spangled Banner,” there was the original American patriotic anthem, “Yankee Doodle.” However, 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 (or used to.) 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? (I’ll bet a lot of recent college graduates actually believe that and think he was a speciesist exploiter of cows.) Well, I’ll answer those questions and more.

“Yankee Doodle” 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.

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 an easier 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. “Yankee Doodle” was the Babylon Bee of its time.

The Americans took the song 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 funny 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 1-22 of 22

  • Bob Boynton

    07/04/2023 03:02 PM

    a far cry from Hunter Biden and
    big guy "Crooked Joe" who are real "doodles"

  • Sharon and Scott

    07/04/2023 02:17 PM

    Great article! I didn't know that. Thanks so much Mike!

  • Penny

    07/06/2022 10:24 AM

    My grandfather was in the Zeigfeld Follies when he was a you g man. I have pictures of him when he performed with George M. Cohen and he taught me Yankee Doodle Dandy when I was probably 5-6 yrs. old.

  • Jane Galati

    08/22/2021 12:10 PM

    Why is red Skelton and frank sinatra not available to hear?

  • Kathy Waite

    07/09/2021 01:56 AM

    Thanks for the article. I've stumped a few "know it alls" when asking them why they called a feather in their hat "macaroni". LOL I also just happen to be an old music lover. My family always sang together when they got together. I have a large collection of old sheet music. Unfortunately, much of this is lost these days. I am still proud to be an American, even if no one else is. Thanks, again, for the memory!

  • Mike Brannick

    07/08/2021 05:56 PM

    I quote "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy" Yes, the country and I celebrate our birthday anytime I'm asked my birth date. Yes, I celebrate my birthday the same day as the country does. I might not have had that birthday without the help of my big sister. My parents were driving to the bus station to pick up my grandmother, who was going to help my mother for a few days after I was born. On the way my sister, sitting in the back seat, did something of which my mother disapproved. My mother turned around to smack her and her water broke. I'm told they had a heck of a time finding a doctor who wasn't taking the day off. To further complicate matters I wasn't quite ready to come out. I required a C-section. I somehow managed to survive all that and celebrate every 4th of July. Fun fact: My youngest son was born on Bastille Day. So we both celebrate a revolution.

  • Sunnye Tiedemann

    07/05/2021 10:45 AM

    First, thank you for being who you are and for all you do for our beloved America.
    Now, I especially enjoyed the story of Yankee Doodle Dandy. I had misunderstood the use of the name “Macaroni” in the song. I thought he named the pony that after he stuck the feather in his hat. I’m not alone in that misperception,either, because Jackie named Caroline Kennedy’s pony “Macaroni” for that very reason!

    Thank you again. I look forward to your newsletters, your broadcasts and every appearance on TV.

  • Victor Coy

    07/04/2021 09:34 PM

    Loved reading this & listening to patriotic songs, thanks

  • Lee Swann

    07/04/2021 06:53 PM

    Mike, just finished reading your biography bt Scott Lamb.
    Interesting, fascinating reading. You have lived a glorious, God blessed life; and you have raised a Beautiful, intelligent daughter. Good luck on her running for Gov of AR (my home state).
    Love your TBN Saturday night show!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jo Ellen Christensen

    07/04/2021 05:44 PM

    Blessings to you and your family as we celebrate July 4th. Thank you for your continued support of our great country. God Bless America.

  • Liz Rome

    07/04/2021 05:36 PM

    The story of Yankee Doodle Dancy was so interesting. Especially to me-a Yankee Doodle Dandy like George M. Cohan -born on the 3rd of July. Our American history is so rich with information about how we got here today. Your comments about the Constitution and Bill of Rights were also great. I hope people don't forget (that's different than only remembering) how much this country meant to immigrants like my father and his family who were lucky enough to escape Nazi Germany. I researched family history. Within weeks of arriving here --during WWII--all of them applied for citizenship. My Dad voted every single election until he died. I remember walking to the polls with him as a child. He wanted me to understand American freedom and opportunity. Thank you Governor for so eloquently reminding readers how much 4th of July means.

  • Linda Greene

    07/04/2021 05:31 PM

    Mike , I really enjoy your newsletter! It always makes me feel better about my country, I so miss the way it always was when everyone so proud to be American, hopefully we can get back to that!
    God Bless you and your family,
    Warmest Regards,
    Linda Greene

  • Janet Figini

    07/04/2021 05:26 PM

    One of my mother's favorite movies..and it every 4th of July! Thanks for the reminder....

  • Jo Cluck

    07/04/2021 05:21 PM

    Thanks...had to print the story of Yankee Doodle off as I doubt my granddaughter even knows the song but I was surprised the wigs were the reason for macaroni statement. Thanks Gov.!

  • Jay Vee

    07/04/2021 05:17 PM

    For what it worth.
    I enjoy you daily letter but some of the advertisements are way out therein La La land. Sort of what I would expect on the loony left.
    Just one mans opinion.

  • The Rev. Dr. John Avery Palmer

    07/04/2021 04:23 PM

    Thank You AGAIN for another very inspiring and educational Newsletter, this one focusing on July 4th (which I'll be forwarding to my many dear conservative family members and friends); although I usually wish that your Newsletters would to be shorter, I'm always glad that I persevered and read them to the end; Aloha!!!

  • Willy Katz

    07/04/2021 02:48 PM

    James Cagney was the best, It was a great scene of him dancing to the tune.

  • Jaime Milstein

    07/04/2021 02:42 PM

    Happy Fourth of July to you, the entire family, and to all this great United States of America??????????

  • Jaime Milstein

    07/04/2021 02:39 PM

    Thank you for your historical explanation. I am an immigrant Proud US citizen, sung with my daughters and grandchildren this song, but I did not know the historical “etiology”. Thank you.
    In addition, my thanks to you for the many analysis of present events, please continue the torch of truth and clarity????????????

  • Sherry Darnell

    07/04/2021 11:20 AM

    Thank you for the most interesting article on Yankee Doodle! Also love love your show on Saturday nights and have it taped so as not to miss a single show or segment of same. Much love to you and your amazing family from Grapevine, Texas
    Sherry and John Darnell

  • Suzanne Utts

    07/04/2020 03:11 PM

    I remember the movie about George M. Cohan's life. My dad and I watched it. Thank you for another great article. You read the news so we don't have to! :-D

  • Betty McCauley

    07/04/2020 02:33 PM

    Wonderful information thank you. I never knew the full explanation for the song. Very happy you shared this today.