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Leave the state song alone

Posted: August 3, 2011 - 7:38pm

Ay-yi-yi-yi,

In China they never serve Chili.

So here comes another verse

Much worse than the other verse,

So waltz me around again, Willie!

These nonsensical lyrics to “Cielito Lindo” came to mind when I read that Rep. Carl Gatto had opposed adoption of Carol Beery Davis’s second verse of “Alaska’s Flag”. As dear as Davis was, and as fine as much of her literary work was, this second verse was not one of her best efforts. Still, as a tribute to her, I arranged the song as a duet and sang the first public performance of the second verse with Fran Ulmer.

With one verse only, “Alaska’s Flag” became the official Territorial song in 1955. I first sang it the next year and have sung the hymn many times since. I say “hymn”, for its final line, “the simple flag of a last frontier”, is hymnlike. Furthermore, the tune is derived from the Protestant hymn “Sweet Hour of Prayer”.

During World War II, I was told that American Soldiers in the Pacific Theater asked unrecognized voices in the jungle to identify themselves by singing the second verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” If the unidentified man did so, he was shot, for no American knew more than the first verse. Similarly, I’m sure that few people ever would learn a second verse of “Alaska’s Flag”. The one verse inspires patriotism in us Alaskans and offends no one.

Therefore, let’s leave it alone!

John d’Armand

Auke Bay

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