“Way Down Upon the Swanee River….”

The State of Florida is looking for a new song. The existing official song, “Old Folks at Home” is a bit dated. It was written by Stephen Foster in 1851, when slavery was the norm in our state, and the words imitate the way slaves talked in the 1850s. In contemporary Florida, the tone and words take on a more racist tone, like much of Florida’s “Southern” heritage; references to “darkies” and longing for “de old plantation” are the main source of the controversy.

This is not a new controversy. I remember attending a Tallahassee “Press Skits” in the mid 1990s where they had a skit on the state song. They started thinking about famous Floridians and some of their songs… Jacksonville’s Lynyrd Skynyrd (“Sweet Home Alabama”), Greenville’s Ray Charles (“Georgia on my mind”), and Gainesville’s Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

Now, the Florida Music Educators’ Association is having a new contest. Here is a release I recently received. Florida Idol anyone?

As of May 15, a contest, titled “Just Sing, Florida !,” has been launched, and it is being coordinated by the Florida Music Educators’ Association (FMEA). The FMEA is managing the process as experts in the field of music and is currently collecting and culling song submissions. The contest runs from May 15 – October 1, 2007.

Additionally, Sen. Tony Hill (D-Jacksonville) and Rep. Ed Homan (R-Temple Terrace) plan to pre-file a bill for the 2008 Florida Legislative Session in order to begin the political process for adopting a new state song.

The top three finalists the contest’s judging panel selects will be announced to the media and public by December 2007, and the songs will then be posted on the contest’s Web site, www.justsingflorida.org. Thereafter, Floridians will have the opportunity to cast their vote online.

The winning song with the most votes will be included in the bill for the 2008 Legislative Session.

Ultimately, the decision to change the state song is up to Florida ’s Legislature. However, it is FMEA’s hope that Floridians will seize this opportunity to engage in music and the arts and appreciate the unity it can bring to Florida ’s communities.

Our goal now is to raise awareness about “Just Sing, Florida !” and to encourage musicians of all ages and levels of experience to submit an entry.

The state song hasn’t changes since “Old Folks at Home” was adopted in 1935. This is an exciting opportunity for Floridians to participate in making Florida ’s history and for musicians to potentially be the writer of Florida ’s new state song.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact the FMEA at (850) 878-6844, or visit www.justsingflorida.org. Additionally, you can visit our MySpace page www.myspace.com/justsingflorida.

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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2 Responses to “Way Down Upon the Swanee River….”

  1. Pingback: Creative Loafing tampa » Blurbex » Blog Archive » The Short List — Fri., Aug. 3

  2. Pace says:

    Keep Swanee River! It’s not over till the F.L. (Florida Legislature) sings. Keep the Modern Version of Swanee River.

    Top Three Modern Versions

    1. Vanilla Mood – International Swanee

    2. Swanee River Boogie by Albert Ammons (1946) King of Boogie Woogie

    3. Swanee River Rock by Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Ray Charles

    2008 Concurrent Resolution to Keep Swanee River … the Modern Words

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