James Cagney : You're a Grand Old Flag (from "Yankee Doodle Dandy," 1942) - Complete Lyrics





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Uploaded on Mar 15, 2010

You're a Grand Old Flag" was written by George M. Cohan for his 1906 stage musical George Washington, Jr. The song was introduced to the public in the play's first act on opening night, February 6, 1906, in New York's Herald Square Theater. It was the first song from a musical to sell over a million copies of sheet music. This rendition is sung by James Cagney in Cohan's 1942 film biography, Yankee Doodle Dandy. (More information below the lyrics.)

See the original sheet music (from 1906) here:


There's a feeling comes a-stealing,
And it sets my brain a-reeling,
When I listen to the music of a military band.
Every tune like "Yankee Doodle"
Simply sets me off my noodle,
It's that patriotic something that no one can understand.
"Way down south, in the land of cotton,"
Melody untiring,
Its so inspiring.
Hurrah! Hurrah! We'll join the jubilee!
And that's going some, for the Yankees, by gum!
Red, white and blue, I am for you!
Honest, you're a grand old flag!
You're a grand old flag,
You're a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave.
You're the emblem of
The land I love.
The home of the free and the brave.
Ev'ry heart beats true
Under Red, White and Blue,
Where there's never a boast or brag.
But should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.
Rally 'round the flag,
Let us rally 'round the flag.....

We took the Red from the flame of dawn, the dawn of a new nation.

And the White was the white of the snow at Valley Forge.

The Blue was the blue of the free open sky.

And the stars were the thirteen sisters by the sea who built their home, and called it Liberty.

To symbolize our spirit --


The spirit of freedom --

Right again!

The spirit that gave birth
To American democracy

That's the spirit!

My country tis of thee,
Sweet land of Liberty,
Of thee we sing...

The original lyric for this perennial George M. Cohan favorite came, as Cohan later explained, from an encounter he had with a Civil War veteran who fought at Gettysburg. The two men found themselves next to each other and Cohan noticed the vet held a carefully folded but ragged old flag. The man reportedly then turned to Cohan and said, "She's a grand old rag." Cohan thought it was a great line and originally named his tune "You're a Grand Old Rag." So many groups and individuals objected to calling the flag a "rag," however, that he "gave 'em what they wanted" and switched words, renaming the song "You're a Grand Old Flag."

It was in George Washington, Jr. that Cohan worked out a routine with this song that he would repeat in many subsequent shows. He took an American flag, started singing the patriotic song, and marched back and forth across the stage. Music such as Cohan's "You're a Grand Old Flag" helped create a shared popular cultural identity as such songs spread beyond the stage, through sheet music and records, to the homes and street corners of America. (Source, Library of Congress, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/ihas/loc...)

Read the 1942 New York Times music review here:

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