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Yankee Doodle Boy

Jul 3, 2013 - Staff

George M. Cohan and the Fourth of July

"A real, live nephew of my Uncle Sam, born on the Fourth of July."

Most Americans see those words and automatically connect them to the lively, strutting march-tempo music that accompanies them.

The chorus to composer George M. Cohan's "Yankee Doodle Boy" is one of our nation's familiar melodies, and many of us could do a pretty good job reciting the lyrics too.

The man who wrote the song "Yankee Doodle Boy" very nearly was "born on the Fourth of July." In fact, Cohan's birthday was July 3, a fact he forgot, conveniently, when his song became a hit after its stage debut in 1904.

As often is the case in old songs with catchy choruses, the verses can tell something of a different story, or at least hint at a different sensibility. In 1904, the matter of foreign immigration to this country was a heated political topic (sound familiar?) and there was much disagreement about what constituted a real American.

Perhaps that's why one verse of "Yankee Doodle Boy" seems to hint at the debate about Americanism that raged during Cohan's coming of age, namely, whether a man named "Hezikiah," perhaps an immigrant from "the old country" was still an American "through and through."

For the Fourth of July, here are the lyrics to the whole song. Hum along, tap your toe, and see what you think about the verse that mentions the Yankee Doodle Boy's parents:

YANKEE DOODLE BOY

George M. Cohan

I'm the kid that's all the candy

I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy

I'm glad I am

So's Uncle Sam

I'm a real live Yankee Doodle

Made my name and fame and boodle

Just like Mister Doodle did

By riding on a pony

I love to listen to the Dixey strain

"I long to see the girl I left behind me"

And that ain't a josh

She's a Yankee, by gosh

Oh, say can you see

Anything about a Yankee that's a phoney?

I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy

A Yankee Doodle, do or die

A real live nephew of my uncle Sam's

Born on the Fourth of July

I've got a Yankee Doodle sweetheart

She's my Yankee Doodle joy

Yankee Doodle came to London

Just to ride the ponies

I am a Yankee Doodle boy

Father's name was Hezikiah

Mother's name was Ann Maria

Yanks through and through

Red, white and blue

Father was so Yankee hearted

When the Spanish War was started

He slipped upon his uniform

And hopped up on a pony

My mother's mother was a Yankee true

My father's father was a Yankee too

And that's going some

For the Yankees, by gum

Oh, say can you see

Anything about my pedigree that's phoney?

I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy

A Yankee Doodle, do or die

A real live nephew of my uncle Sam's

Born on the Fourth of July

I've got a Yankee Doodle sweetheart

She's my Yankee Doodle joy

Yankee Doodle came to London,

Just to ride the ponies

I am a Yankee Doodle boy

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The Ranger is taking Thursday off. Have a flag-waving holiday, and we'll be back Friday.

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