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Humming a Minnesota melody

Published (3/7/2008)
By Courtney Blanchard
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Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” is the state song of Oklahoma and John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” is Colorado’s state song.

So when Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City), recommended March 3 to the House Minnesota Heritage Finance Division designating “Hail! Minnesota” as the state anthem and searching for a new official state song, Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls) asked, “Could we get some quality?”

HF2961, sponsored by Urdahl, would establish a nine-member commission to recommend an official state song to the Legislature. The bill was approved and referred to the House Finance Committee.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said a state song commission would give the public a chance to be more involved in the state’s sesquicentennial.

The committee adopted an amendment to allow the commission to accept submissions from anyone in the country. That would allow songs by Minnesota natives like Bob Dylan to be considered. However, Ritchie said the search would encourage all Minnesotans to offer suggestions or write new material.

Before going ahead with “Hail! Minnesota,” Kahn offered an amendment to change the line, “Thy sons are strong and true.” According to the amended bill, the song could only be adopted as the state anthem if it had gender-neutral language.

If the line is changed, it won’t be the first time the song was adapted to suit its audience. According to legislative archives, the song was written in 1904 for a University of Minnesota play. To adapt the piece for the state song in 1945, the line “Hail to thee our college dear!” was replaced with “Hail to thee our state so dear!”

The companion bill, SF3457, is sponsored by Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista) and awaits action by the Senate State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee.

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