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Music of the American Revolution

Yankee Doodle

Yankee Doodle, Oil on Canvas by A.M. Willard, CC-SA License 3.0
Yankee Doodle, Oil on Canvas by A.M. Willard

Every American school child learns the tune of Yankee Doodle before they leave elementary school, but few people know the origins of the song. Some of the words are:

Yankee Doodle went to town
Riding on a Pony
Stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni

A British Army surgeon named Richard Shuckburg first penned the verses during the French and Indian War to make fun of colonial soldiers. He used a traditional British tune which has been attached to many other lyrics - but in modern times, Yankee Doodle has become the most famous rendition.

"Yankee" was a derogatory term attached to New Englanders - and in those days, macaroni wasn't a noodle, but a foppish or effeminate hair style. In the tune, Shuckburg was basically calling the colonists unmanly and stupid. Yet, the colonists loved the song so much that they adopted it as one of their most patriotic songs, and would make captured British prisoners dance to it at the end of the Revolutionary War.


The unofficial anthem of the American cause, William Billings' Chester was immensely popular during the American War for Independence. It encouraged the Patriots to be strong, because God was standing on their side against the British tyrants.

Let tyrants shake their iron rod,
And Slav'ry clank her galling chains,
We fear them not, we trust in God,
New England's God forever reigns.

Stony Point

This tune commemorates the Sir Henry Clinton's, Commander of the British forces, storming of Stony Point in 1779. General George Washington managed to outsmart Clinton, and staged to a maneuver to retake Stony Point with the help of General Anthony Wayne, which was eventually successful.

The Liberty Song

The Liberty Song is an early American ballad composed by John Dickinson, and is often attributed as the origin of the phrase: "United We Stand, Divided We Fall."

Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall;
In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed,
For heaven approves of each generous deed.

Free America(y)

Joseph Warren, an active member of the Sons of Liberty, wrote Free America(y) to the tune of "The British Grenadiers."

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Share-Alike License 3.0

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