Forgotten Hits of the Past: “The Stars and Stripes Forever”

Forgotten Hits of the Past: “The Stars and Stripes Forever”

Paolo Reyes, Staff Writer

Welcome to 2021, the year we were all longing for in 2020. We’re only a few days into this year and it already feels like the world is falling apart and reality is collapsing. At the time of writing this, the United States capitol was invaded, sieged, and desecrated by those who oppose America’s democracy and democratic process. It truly was a dark period in our country’s history. The unfortunate events that occurred that day are symbolic of the growing and intensifying division in the United States. Now more than ever, it is important that Americans find a common sense of unity to heal what has been torn apart. As Americans, we are all united under our flag, the stars and stripes, which stands for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our belief in these common ideals and our everlasting venture to maintain them is what makes us all citizens of the United States of America. No march or song better embodies these themes than “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, our country’s national march.. 

The “Stars and Stripes Forever” was written by John Philip Sousa, the director of the United States Marine Corps band from 1880 – 1892. During this time, he was widely referred to as the “March King,” as he wrote 136 military band marches in his lifetime, some of which are America’s most renowned marches. It is said that Sousa composed the “Stars and Stripes Forever” while sailing back home from holiday in Europe. Publicized in 1896, the song was a culmination of Sousa’s longing for his home country as well as his undying patriotism. After the song’s release, Sousa used it for many of his own concerts. It is said that when he toured and performed with his own band, the crowd would always demand that they performed the song. Soon, the song’s popularity earned it the title of the United States’ official march in 1987.  

As it is a military march, its lyrics are far and few between, but the words still ring true and echo patriotism. The song preaches unity under the United States flag, where people from all over the country can find unity in their nationality. Even more, it expresses the need for the continuation of the ideals that define the United States. In this dark time in American history, we  must once again seek to understand these ideals and not let the influence of false patriots cloud the perception of them. This song, alongside many other of John Philip Sousa’s works, would set the standard for American patriotism in music. The particular sounds, style, and tone of his compositions would become characteristic of many future American marches. 

The “Stars and Stripes Forever” truly is an American patriotic masterpiece. In 1897, a Public Ledger reporter commented about the song saying, “It is stirring enough to rouse the American eagle from his crag, and set him to shriek exultantly while he hurls his arrows at the aurora borealis.” This couldn’t be more true. If you have been understandably worried by the recent events, listening to this song can restore faith in our country and embolden the patriotic spirit in everyone. It reminds you that no matter what happens in our country, we will persist. The idea of America cannot and will never die and true patriotism and democracy will always prevail.