New Jersey’s Quest for a State Song
A Brief history of New Jersey’s Quest for a State SongCurrently New Jersey is the only state in the U.S. that has no State Song. Efforts to establish an official State Song began in 1939, were taken up again in 1956, and yet again in 1972. That is to say, for seventy-one years New Jersey has tried, unsuccessfully, to resolve this issue. Then in 1995, Gov. Whitman asked The New Jersey State Council on the Arts to submit in their order of preference three choices for State Song. A contest was held. Out of 243 works, my piece, “New Jersey My Home,” was selected as the number-one choice of the NJCOA, along with two runners-up. “New Jersey My Home” is the only song ever to be given top recommendation by the NJCOA. It is currently in both Senate Assembly Committees as S1611 and A2273, along with three other songs on the same Bill (explanation to follow).
However, no sooner was the song submitted to the legislature, when other contenders – one of the runners-up included -- continued to assert that their song be given top honors, choosing to ignore the recommendation of the NJCOA. The State Song issue became mired in the hazard of constituent-based political thinking. With at least four State Song proposals under consideration, no equitable resolution seemed possible. Each Senator with a song from their district seemed determined to push their song through, with the result that none of the resolutions have been ratified.
Then over the summer of 1997, I did some research. I discovered that North Carolina has a State Song ("The Old North Star", 1927), and a song to be used as the official State Toast ("A Toast", 1957); North Dakota has both a State Song ("North Dakota Hymn", 1927), and a State March ("The Flickertail March", 1989); Arkansas declared a State Song ("You Run Deep In Me", 1987), and an official state Historical Song ("Arkansas", 1917).
Michigan, Montana, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and South Carolina — to name but a few of the more than forty states following this practice—all have various combinations of state songs, state ballads, state children's songs, state folk songs, etc. In fact, Tennessee has five of them, and Kentucky has six. I immediately drafted a proposal to Senators Baer and Cardinale that New Jersey follow in the same path as these other states, which apparently faced exactly the same impasse. Senator Cardinale eagerly drafted and sponsored a new resolution, and Senator Byron Baer co-sponsored it, giving each of the contested works a special designation, with “New Jersey, My Home” designated as the State Anthem, Sandy Vitale’s “In New Jersey” as the State Children’s Song, Mark Winter’s “Be Proud To Be In New Jersey” as the State Popular Song, and Nelson Trout’s “New Jersey USA” as the State Ballad.
A few years after the Bill expired, Sen. Van Drew took up the cause, and is now the sponsor of the Current legislation (S1865/A2547).