Missouri has a gawd-awful state song. But we just heard a piece of music that can so easily replace it — and should. And you should listen to it, too. But first some background.
The Missouri legislature, showing its penchant for getting things wrong, decided in 1949 to make “The Missouri Waltz” our state song, assuming President Harry Truman liked it. Harry Truman thought it was awful. We checked with the Truman Library’s web site and we learned of these comments from a television interview many years ago:
“It’s a ragtime song and if you let me say what I think-I don’t give a damn about it, but I can’t say it out loud because it’s the song of Missouri. It’s as bad as ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ as far as music is concerned.”
A 1958 article in the Kansas City Star reported that the song was played at nearly every public occasion during his 1948 presidential campaign and it became part of Missouri folklore that the “Missouri Waltz” was his favorite song. Truman said about the song, “I just got tired of it. After all, they played it 30,000 times or more during that 1948 presidential campaign.” In 1962, Truman was a guest of honor at a private dinner in a hotel. He walked down the hall towards the restroom and the leader of an orchestra in the main ballroom saw him and had his band play the “Missouri Waltz.” Truman remarked to a friend that had accompanied him, “It’s getting so you can’t go to the men’s room anymore without them playing the song.”
Our state song once was called “The Graveyard Waltz.” The ONLY thing it has to do with Missouri is that it is
about a song
that somebody learned
while sitting on their mammy’s knee
In addition, a quick read of the lyrics, especially the older versions, shows they’re filled with some pretty antiquated, patronizing, and, well, racist attitudes. Not only that but the tune is just flat out BOR-RINGGGG.
We were milking the internet for news in various parts of Missouri this morning and somehow wound up on Youtube listening to Neal E. Boyd sing the “Missouri Anthem” that he co-wrote with Branson K. Guttenfelder in 2004.
Neal E. Boyd is the Sikeston insurance salesman who won the “America’s Got Talent” competition four years ago by singing opera music. He’s back in Missouri now and he’s running for a seat in the House of Representatives. If you go to the Youtube link you’ll see a piece of campaign video but forget that. Just listen to a song that encourages us to:
“Believe in the courage and strength of Missouri
Where the Rivers run through the heart of our land,
Where the eagle soars from he Ozark mountain
United we stand is freedom’s demand.”
He thinks Missouri needs its own anthem. He told ShowMe Times, “Missouri Waltz is already the State Song, but mine would be different and specific to various aspects of our values and culture.”
Sorry Neal, you’re wrong. It’s time to junk a boring song that was approved by a misguided Missouri General Assembly (not the first such gathering and sure not the last) that has nothing culturally, geographically, or musically to do with Missouri.
The Missouri Anthem is a song that an orchestra can play with dignity. It’s a song that a choir can sing with beauty. It’s a song that somebody like Neal E. Boyd can sing with magnificence. It’s even a song you and I could sing. In fact you might find yourself humming it after you hear Neal sing it. (It is so rare these days to hear music that can be hummed or whistled—have you heard any of today’s young people humming a hit song lately?)
We can’t vote for Neal E. Boyd. But we sure would cast a vote for his song. For this song:
Neal and I wrote that song a few years ago, but we have always thought of it as a song for all of Missouri. We were striving to capture the heart of our great state, it’s values and its people, in the lyrics and melody of the piece. I truly appreciate your article, thank you! -Brandon K. Guttenfelder
Thank you for the article and the compliments about “Missouri Anthem.” Brandon and I are honored! Maybe one day the General Assembly will take notice. Again, thank you.
Neal E. Boyd
Great song! But waho were all those people with Neal in the pictures?