Songs of America, Young Readers Editioin: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation

Songs of America, Young Readers Editioin: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation

by Jon Meacham, Tim McGraw
Songs of America, Young Readers Editioin: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation

Songs of America, Young Readers Editioin: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation

by Jon Meacham, Tim McGraw


    Qualifies for Free Shipping
    Check Availability at Nearby Stores

Related collections and offers


An adaptation for young readers of the outstanding adult bestseller by Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Jon Meacham and Grammy Award–winning artist Tim McGraw celebrating America and the music that shaped it.

Songs of America explores the music of important times in our history—the stirring pro- and anti-war music of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, World Wars I and II, and the Vietnam War; the folk songs and popular music of the Great Depression, the fight for women’s rights, and the Civil Rights movement; and the music of both beloved and lesser-known poets, musicians, and songwriters from Colonial times to the twenty-first century. Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jon Meacham and Grammy Award–winning artist Tim McGraw present the songs of patriotism and protest that gave voice to the politicians and activists who moved the country forward, seeking to fulfill America’s destiny as the land of liberty and justice for all.
Readers will recognize pages from the American songbook—examples include “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “We Shall Overcome,” and “Born in the U.S.A.”—and will be introduced to lesser-known but equally important works that have inspired Americans to hold on to the tenets of freedom at the roots of our nation.
Adapted from the adult bestseller, Songs of America: Young Readers Edition highlights the unique role music has played in uniting and shaping a nation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593178799
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 04/25/2023
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 1,116,243
Product dimensions: 7.44(w) x 9.38(h) x 0.94(d)
Age Range: 10 - 17 Years

About the Author

About The Author
Jon Meacham is a Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer. Meacham holds the Carolyn T. and Robert M. Rogers Chair in the American Presidency and is a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt University. He is a contributing writer to the New York Times Book Review, a contributing editor to Time, and a fellow of the Society of American Historians.

Tim McGraw is a Grammy Award–winning entertainer, author, and actor who has sold more than fifty million records worldwide and dominated the charts with forty-three number one singles. He has two New York Times bestselling books to his credit, and has acted in such movies as Friday Night Lights and The Blind Side.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Sensations of Freedom

By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.

—John Dickinson, “The Liberty Song,” 1768

Objects of the most stupendous magnitude, measures in which the lives and liberties of millions, born and unborn, are most essentially interested, are now before us. We are in the very midst of a Revolution, the most complete, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the history of nations.

—John Adams, Sunday, June 9, 1776

Remember the Ladies.

—Abigail Adams, to her husband as the Founders debated independence

As daylight faded on Friday, June 10, 1768, officials of the British Crown stepped across the wharves of Boston Harbor to seize the Liberty, a sloop owned by the merchant John Hancock of Massachusetts. The charge: that Hancock’s men had smuggled casks of Madeira wine from the Liberty’s hold to avoid paying stiff duties recently imposed under the hated Townshend Acts. Anticipating trouble, the imperial authorities had deployed the heavily armed warship HMS Romney—which contemporaries described as a “fine new 50-­Gun ship”—for the task. “This conduct provoked the People, who had collected on the Shore,” the Boston Gazette reported, and the gathering of colonials surged toward the British collector of customs, Joseph Harrison, as he came back off the Liberty. On the street adjoining the harbor, Harrison wrote, “we were pursued by the Mob which by this time was increased to a great multitude. The onset was begun by throwing dirt at me, which was presently succeeded by volleys of stones, brickbats, sticks, or anything that came to hand. . . . About this time I received a violent blow on the breast . . . and I verily believe that if I had fallen, I should never have got up again, the People to all appearance being determined on blood and murder.”

The royal governor of Massachusetts was flummoxed, denouncing what he called this “Great Riot” in dispatches to London. The colonials, naturally, had a different view. To them, the specter of the Romney taking control of Hancock’s Liberty was an outrage, a veritable act of war. “We will support our liberties,” a patriot leader cried after the seizure, “depending upon the strength of our own arms and God.”

Hearing the news, John Dickinson of Pennsylvania was moved to pick up his pen to strike a blow in favor of the colonial cause. Born in 1732, raised in Dover, Delaware, and trained as a lawyer in Philadelphia and at the Middle Temple in London, Dickinson had recently published an influential series of essays entitled Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies. The Townshend Acts had been the occasion for Dickinson’s Letters; in Boston, Joseph Harrison had found Dickinson’s writings “inflaming and seditious . . . tending to poison and incense the minds of the people and alienate them from all regard and obedience to the Legislature of the Mother Country.”

A sustained attempt to argue for the justice of the colonial view that representation was a civil right in the English tradition, the Letters would bring Dickinson acclaim. “From infancy,” Dickinson had written, “I was taught to love liberty and humanity.”

His Letters had been prose. Now, in the wake of the clash in Boston, he would try poetry, composing a series of verses in honor of the resistance in Massachusetts. “I enclose you a song for American freedom,” Dickinson wrote James Otis of Boston. He told Otis that Arthur Lee of Virginia, a Dickinson friend, had contributed eight lines of “The Liberty Song.” Published in Philadelphia and in the Boston Gazette of July 18, 1768, the song was set to William Boyce’s “Heart of Oak,” a patriotic British number popular with the Royal Navy.

Come join hand in hand, brave Americans all,

And rouse your bold hearts at fair Liberty’s call;

No tyrannous acts shall suppress your just claim,

Or stain with dishonor America’s name.

In freedom we’re born, and in freedom we’ll live;

Our purses are ready,

Steady, Friends, steady,

Not as slaves, but as freemen our money we’ll give.

Our worthy forefathers—let’s give them a cheer—

To climates unknown did courageously steer;

Thro’ oceans, to deserts, for freedom they came,

And, dying, bequeath’d us their freedom and fame.

Their generous bosoms all dangers despis’d,

So highly, so wisely, their birthrights they priz’d;

We’ll keep what they gave, we will piously keep,

Nor frustrate their toils on the land and the deep.

The Tree, their own hands had to Liberty rear’d,

They lived to behold growing strong and rever’d;

With transport they cry’d, “Now our wishes we gain,

For our children shall gather the fruits of our pain.”

Swarms of placemen and pensioners soon will appear,

Like locusts deforming the charms of the year;

Suns vainly will rise, showers vainly descend,

If we are to drudge for what others shall spend.

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.

All ages shall speak with amaze and applause,

Of the courage we’ll show in support of our laws;

To die we can bear—but to serve we disdain,

For shame is to freedom more dreadful than pain.

This bumper I crown for our sovereign’s health,

And this for Britannia’s glory and wealth;

That wealth and that glory immortal may be,

If she is but just—and if we are but free.

Dickinson had great hopes for his work. His language was designed to appeal to the emotions of his broad audience. “By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall”; “In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed”; “To die we can bear—but to serve we disdain”—the song’s message was unmistakable. Unity was all; a common cause would carry the day; the stakes could not be higher.

Here, in the middle of the summer of 1768, eight years before the Declaration of Independence, an American patriot was making a popular case for American identity and for American action in the more universal and stirring genre of music. “The Liberty Song” quickly spread. To John Adams, Dickinson had done something wondrous. “This,” Adams remarked of the song, “is cultivating the sensations of freedom.”

The Liberty Song

I was struck by the melody and structure of this song. We don’t really think of the Revolution in terms of music, except maybe “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” But John Dickinson’s words, together with the older British music, create something uplifting and empowering. Having strong rhythm, it would be classified as a march, with around 120 beats per minute. The irony of the choice of the music of the British anthem isn’t lost on me—it’s shrewd to put new words to an old tune, especially if you’re trying to turn the familiar on its head. What really speaks to me is this verse:

All ages shall speak with amaze and applause,

Of the courage we’ll show in support of our laws;

To die we can bear—but to serve we disdain,

For shame is to freedom more dreadful than pain.

Dickinson clearly understands that this is a moment in time that will live on forever (at least he’s hoping it will, and hope drives so much of art), and he used this idea to inspire real people to take real steps toward independence—and transformation.

—Tim McGraw

Yet America did not declare its independence in the wake of Dickinson’s song, or for eight years afterward. The ensuing period was marked by further taxes and protests, more debate over the nature of representative government, and rising concerns over the role of imperial authority in colonial affairs. How did a group of disparate British North Americans, subjects of the British Empire all their lives, decide to risk everything?

The nation was an experiment—and a risky one at that. Nobody knew if the Revolutionary War would succeed; it has been said that the Founders joked, mordantly, about how they had to hang together or they would surely hang separately.

A pattern took hold. The British Parliament imposed new taxes to raise revenue from British America. Colonists in their sundry capitals (Boston, Annapolis, Philadelphia, Williamsburg, and so on) resisted. The royal governments in the New World and the establishment in Britain grew impatient with what they saw as a continent populated by the recalcitrant, the unreasonable, and the ungrateful.

In these years Americans played and hummed and sang different versions of “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” with its sprightly rhythm; they recited, too, ballads like 1775’s “The Pennsylvania Song”:

We’ll not give up our birthright,

Our foes shall find us men;

As good as they, in any shape,

The British troops shall ken.

Huzza! Brave boys, we’ll beat them

On any hostile plain;

For freedom, wives, and children dear,

The battle we’ll maintain.

What! Can those British tyrants think,

Our fathers cross’d the main,

And savage foes, and dangers met,

To be enslav’d by them?

If so, they are mistaken,

For we will rather die;

And since they have become our foes,

Their forces we defy.

And all the world shall know,

Americans are free,

Nor slaves nor cowards we will prove,

Great Britain soon shall see.

The idea of an American “birthright” expressed in these verses was a prevalent one. The American revolutionaries took the positions they did—positions that led to the Declaration of Independence in 1776—partly because they saw themselves as Englishmen who were being denied a full share of the benefits of English life. Every proposal from London, every thought of a tax, every sign of imperial authority, raised fears of tyranny in America, for as Englishmen they were intuitively on guard against any encroachment on their liberty.

Still, in the summer of 1775, the independence-­minded colonists were not ready to fight a total war, dispatching an “Olive Branch Petition” to London, addressed directly to George III. The king refused to receive it and had in the meantime issued a hawkish “Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition,” asserting that the Americans were in “open and avowed rebellion.” This was a serious blow to those seeking reconciliation of some kind with the mother country.

As 1776 dawned, Thomas Paine published Common Sense, a wildly bestselling pamphlet making the case for independence. “The cause of America is,” Paine wrote, “in a great measure, the cause of all mankind.” His words had remarkable resonance. “Its effects were sudden and extensive upon the American mind,” the patriot-­physician Benjamin Rush recalled. “It was read by public men, repeated in clubs, spouted in schools, and in one instance, delivered from the pulpit instead of a sermon.” In Connecticut, an appreciative reader wrote, “We were blind, but on reading these enlightening words, the scales have fallen from our eyes.” George Washington praised Paine’s “unanswerable reasoning.”

As his subjects absorbed Paine’s arguments for a new era in democratic government, George III was brokering treaties with European powers to enlist soldiers for service in the New World—treaties that were leaked to American newspapers, alarming the colonists. There was terrible military news from Canada and fears that the British were about to strike the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia. For the more forward-­leaning Americans, the answer was to declare independence, seek an alliance with France, and risk all in a bold bid for nationhood and for liberty.

From the B&N Reads Blog

Customer Reviews