Not the Words I Learned

I got volunteered for singing with a group at an outdoor July 4 sort of thing. (I left the room to visit the ladies’ lounge. Don’t do that during a committee meeting. I know better, but Nature had other plans. Anyway.) Part of it includes singing the five service anthems. The setting uses the almost-latest versions, some of which do not match the texts I learned.

Since I learned all five from WWII veterans, some of the changes rank down there with some of the changes made to hymns, in my opinion. Others just make me blink a few times.

The expansion of the Army song from just the field artillery to include everyone else makes sense, although I still default to “When the Caissons go Rolling Along” as the version I usually sing unless pressed for the later edition. The Army still needs ammunition and things that make it go boom, yes? Which is what was on those caissons. And counter-marching is still something done, although not quite the same way or as often.

Since we’re not in a place of worship, or around people who will fuss, “down with one/ hell ofa roar,” remains intact in the Air Force song. However, I keep wanting to sing, “Nothing can stop the Army Air Corps,” because that’s how the WWII guys sang it, and still sing it. First learned, first remembered and all of that. [Omits DadRed’s rant about the Air Force needing to be returned to the Army].

No one had the nerve to mess with the Marine Corps “hymn,” although we don’t do the last verse about “when the Army and the Navy look on heaven’s golden scenes/ They will find the gates are guarded by United States Marines.” I can’t imagine why that verse is omitted. *does best to look innocent* Or the version where it is “If the Army and the Air Force . . .” No rivalry there, no, none at all.

“Anchors Aweigh” also got left alone this time. I had to do one version that made zero sense, and it turned out that some well-meaning-soul had attempted to “correct” the words. Ah, no, they didn’t need correction. Even so, it was a better text flow than what I’ve seen done to “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” (the Navy hymn). I was delighted to sing in a church where the preacher was a Navy vet who insisted that we do the real words, not the supposedly inclusive but quite toothless version in that church’s hymnal.

The Coast Guard’s “Semper Paratus” got reverted back to the original, perhaps in order to remove the WWII-era references to combat. *facepaw* Sorry, Coasties. I assure you that I was singing the other phrases under my breath, even though I’ll stick with what’s on the music for the actual performance. Yes, the men and women of the Coast Guard get shot at, and have been shot at, especially during WWII and a few other conflicts of note. They do a lot more than rescue people, although that’s what the first words focus on.


26 thoughts on “Not the Words I Learned

    • The version I learned of the Marine’s Hymn included that last verse, including the “If”. Music Teacher was sure to include it and didn’t bother with the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard. What could possibly give me the sneaking suspicion that Music Teacher was a Marine vet?

      • *dry tone* I have no idea. Nor did I inquire as to why DadRed taught all the verses to the interpreters and had them serenade Col. [Redacted] on November 10 and present him with crimson and yellow roses.

      • Nor would I wonder why dear nephew immediately began complaining about all the Army junk they were equipped with, immediately after entering on active duty at P.I. Nor ask why Drill Sergeant was keeping a mostly straight face, just within hearing distance. Ahem.

        I prefer the un-bowlderized versions, written when people remembered the reason for having armed forces, which was not disaster relief (unless disaster was riding panzers).

  1. If I hear any version, I’ll hear the 1940’s version… or wonder what’s wrong. Alright, I’ll comprehend the USAF changes. But when the Army Air Corps dropped nukes, they MEANT to do that! }:o)

    • And as part of revenue enforcement in the Prohibition era they were also shot at a fair bit. And shot back at the assorted rum runners in their fast boats. Grew up in Connecticut and always loved to go to the USCG open house usually in early summer, although the Groton Sub base in late August often had better stuff to see.

    • When I was signing up for a military service, several well meaning folks tried to push me to the Coast Guard.

      Finally ended up getting them to leave me alone by saying something to the effect of “Hell no, I’m joining someone who can shoot back!

      Not entirely accurate, but it got the idea across. 😀

  2. I was in the USAF, and had 17 years in missiles, 8 years in 33 holes in the ground. Missileer songs? Look for The Groobers at You Tube.

  3. That’s one that Trivial Pursuit actually got wrong in the 1st Edition. The Navy hymn is NOT Anchors Aweigh, it’s actually the Navy Hymn! Grrr…

  4. Medley by Seamus Kennedy (Tribute to the armed services / Drunken sailor) is rather funny–includes rude versions for all branches.

  5. Re: No one had the nerve to mess with the Marine Corps “hymn,”

    Deep within my MP3 collection is a set of military-themed songs from folksinger Oscar Brand. Some of them I recognize from various books on military history; others are … not the sort that would get into a book meant for a general audience. There are satirical songs about the Army, Navy, and Army Air Corps/Army Air Force/USAF, including a ruthless send-up of “The Caissons Go Rolling Along.” There are none, however, that are anything less than respectful about the Marine Corps. Including a straight version of the Marines’ Hymn.

    In fact, I can only recall seeing one satire of the Marines’ Hymn in my life. In MAD magazine. No one else seems to be brave (or foolish) enough to mess with the leathernecks. Although I do have a version on another album that changes the second half of the first verse to

    Admiration of the nation
    We’re the finest ever seen
    And we glory in the title
    Of ‘United States Marines.’

    Hmm. Come to think of it, that second album is by “The Four Sergeants.” No mention of which branch they were Sergeants in, though.

  6. My daughter learned “Blood Upon the Risers”, slightly edited, in middle school. For some reason. I wasn’t allowed to meet the (male) teacher and swap notes. FIL with jumps stars on his wings from Korea, was very interested. “Gory, gory What a [REDACT] of a way to go/ He ain’t gonna jump no more!”

    A lot of good,low songs out there to express opinions and sentiment, usually better on the third round of beer. Or, lemonade for the [insult favorite insult].

    • I heard “Blood Upon the Risers” from vets of the 82nd and 101st at a national paratrooper reunion that was held in Atlanta. I sort of memorized the lyrics the first time I heard it with Grandpa Carl. That was in educational evening (in the good sense. I’d never seen NCOs before with so many hashmarks and rockers on one sleeve that they almost overlapped like ripples on water.)

    • Re: “Blood on the Risers” — I find it interesting how many of these military songs use some variant of the melody from “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” I’ve also heard several whose tunes are clearly based on the railroad ballad “The Wreck of Old ’97.” Why is that, do you know? Is it just because those two were songs that everybody knew in those days?

      • The way I heard it, both are just the songs we’re most familiar with that used an existing song– usually a drinking song or a sea song.

        Kind of like how a lot of classic Western music sounds like Irish songs but using different instruments.

        • I think a lot of Western cowboy music sounds vaguely Irish for the same reason that a turkey looks a lot like a velociraptor: the one is descended through many generations from the other. Irish music came to America during the great Irish diaspora and settled quite firmly among poor whites throughout the East, especially the Appalachians. After the Civil War a lot of poor whites from both North and South went West seeking their fortunes, and they brought their music with them.

          I wonder if it has something to do with how easy the tune is to carry with makeshift instruments, or even with no instruments at all.

      • “Battle Hymn” was taken from an older tune used in “John Brown’s Body Lies a Mouldering in the Grave,” and turned into the hymn. I suspect most of what sticks around are folk tunes that were modified slightly. Off the top of my head, I know three hymns that use the tune to “Star of the County Down.” We talk about “folk-song families,” meaning both lyrics adapted to different tunes, and melodies used for several texts. (The Sacred harp lists eight settings for the text of “Promised Land”, and I can think of five tunes for “Come Thou Fount” off the top of my head.)

        • Step 1: Use folksong tune for hymn. (Extra points if the original song makes the hymn sound really inappropriate.)

          Step 2: “Regularize” folksong tune. Change the scansion enough to confuse people.

          Step 3: Write really horrible harmonies or arrangement for folksong tune.

          Step 4: Complain when singers perform song entirely according to the folksong tune, and snigger about the inappropriate parts not secretly enough.

          • I don’t mean to be too snarky, but I have literally never gotten to choose what music we sing in a choir. When we sing terrible music, I have always always been told that terrible music is being picked because “you will love it.” No. No, I don’t. Sometimes other people love it, but usually nobody loves it. Not kids. Not teenagers. Not older people. Nobody.

            So at least one can understand why one would pick a random popular folksong melody. But then they ruin it. If you look at older examples from, say, Ireland in the 1800’s, there’s a little bit better taste.

            And let’s not forget “I swear this is the melody of a totally public domain folksong, even though it is really obviously something recently composed and not folky” followed by “the publishing company pays a lot of back royalties to a living known composer for a non-folksong from 1979.”

            • It’s become routine:
              “Oooh! The exit song today is great!”
              *exit song starts; if you can recognize it at all, it’s a durge*
              “…do they realize not everything is a funeral?”

              Lord of the Dance does NOT work with a funky rhythm and sang so slowly that “Daaaaaaaance, dance” is four seconds long.

  7. Re: armed forces filks — There is a direct correlation between the songs people learn when learning an instrument, and the most filked tunes. (And then general popularity of original song comes after that.)

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