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The Marine's Hymn is NOT American Born! WHAAAT!

Shocking isn't it?

I just discovered this fact recently.

One of my students started playing the Marine Corp Hymn in the Bastien Level 2 Lesson Book. I always like to give my students a miniature music history lesson on a piece, especially one as iconic as the Marine Hymn. It sounds so bold, so brave, and it really gets your heart pumping when you hear a men's chorus singing it accompanied by a brass band.

How American!

Or not.

No one knows who wrote the lyrics, but it turns out the tune was "composed" by Jacques Offenbach, a German-Jewish immigrant to France in the mid-1800's. The family surname was originally Eberst, but Jacques' father changed it to the name of the town where he lived in Germany. Although I have no evidence of this, I have wondered if the father's choice to change his name was in part driven by the need to avoid anti-Semitism in Germany (and the rest of the world.) The tune was used in Offenbach's Operetta Genevieve de Brabant in a comic duet "Deux hommes d'armes." According to the Kennedy Center, there is evidence that Jacques Offenbach borrowed the tune from a Spanish folk melody.

So turns out, the Marine's Hymn is not as American as we thought.

Or is it?

If you think of the United States as a nation of immigrants, which we all are, then it is totally in line with American ideology to sing proudly a tune borrowed from French Opera written by an immigrant from Germany to France which was probably borrowed from a Spanish folk tune. How diverse can a history be?

How truly American!

Here is the Deux hommes d'armes.

Here is the Marine's Hymn


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