Something for a Fourth of July weekend: Yankee Doodle.
Originally sung by British officers to disparage American troops who fought beside them in the French and Indian War, it was seized upon by Patriots, given endless lyrics, and cheered the patriot troops and civilians during the eight long years of the Revolution. After Lexington and Concord it was reported by Massachusetts newspapers that the British were suddenly not as fond of the song:
“Upon their return to Boston [pursued by the Minutemen], one [Briton] asked his brother officer how he liked the tune now, — ‘Dang them,’ returned he, ‘they made us dance it till we were tired’ — since which Yankee Doodle sounds less sweet to their ears.”
James Cagney did an immortal riff on Yankee Doodle in the musical biopic of composer and actor George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942):
Yankee Doodle plays in the background as Cagney at the end of the film, entirely impromptu, dances down the White House staircase:
Yankee Doodle marked the beginning of our life as a nation. A little trifle of a song in many ways, it also symbolized an energy and a resilience that have ever been the hallmark of the American people, along with a dedication to liberty. We have many virtues as a nation along with vices. Many times in our history disaster has appeared to loom due to foreign threats or domestic turmoil. When we remember who we are, and are true to the best in us as exemplified in our cherished founding documents, all tends to be well. When we forget, and betray the better angels of our nature, we sow the wind for future strife.