Anthems of America for the Independence Party Playlist; Maggie Sullivan Returns to LBI for Single Show

ENCORE: Last year, Maggie Sullivan played her last show before relocating to Hawaii. Visiting last week, she joined her dad, Matt, for one show at Nardi’s. (Photos by Ryan Morrill)

Last year’s Independence Day column discussed the origin of the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Originally titled “Defense of Fort McHenry,” it was penned by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812, but it did not become the official anthem of the nation until 1931. For those who don’t know the story, it’s a worthwhile read. Subscribers can access The SandPaper stories beyond six weeks past print; check it out.

Exactly one century before “The Star-Spangled Banner” was officially named the national anthem, the honor was shared between a handful of unofficial patriotic tunes, most notably “America (My Country ’Tis of Thee).”

“America (My Country ’Tis of Thee)” was written by Samuel Francis Smith in 1831 during his time studying at the Andover Theological Seminary, in Massachusetts.

Smith was assigned by renowned composer Lowell Mason to work up new lyrics to an assortment of German songs, including one melody known famously as Britain’s “God Save the Queen.” Smith’s new lyrics replaced themes of monarchy loyalty with sentimentality for American democracy.

My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From ev’ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!

My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture thrills,
Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom’s song;
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.

Our fathers’ God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom’s holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King!

The song was performed for the first time at Boston’s Park Street Church on July 4, 1831 for a children’s Independence Day celebration.

About 13 years later, A.G. Duncan penned an abolitionist’s version of the tune, criticizing slavery in America and calling for change. 

My country, ’tis of thee,
Stronghold of slavery,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Where men man’s rights deride,
From every mountainside
Thy deeds shall ring.

My native country, thee,
Where all men are born free,
If white’s their skin;
I love thy hills and dales,
Thy mounts and pleasant vales;
But hate thy negro sales, as foulest sin.

Let wailing swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees the black man’s wrong;
Let every tongue awake;
Let bond and free partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.

Our father’s God! to thee,
Author of Liberty,
To thee we sing;
Soon may our land be bright,
With holy freedom’s right,
Protect us by thy might,
Great God, our King.

It comes, the joyful day,
When tyranny’s proud sway,
Stern as the grave,
Shall to the ground be hurl’d,
And freedom’s flag, unfurl’d,
Shall wave throughout the world,
O’er every slave.

Trump of glad jubilee!
Echo o’er land and sea
Freedom for all.
Let the glad tidings fly,
And every tribe reply,
‘Glory to God on high,’
At Slavery’s fall!”

“America” Celebrated

In Popular Culture

American psychedelic rock band The Doors employed a bit of the “America” melody as a guitar riff in the opening of “L.A. Woman.” That version of the recording was included in the 40th anniversary edition of the eponymous album L.A. Woman, as well as a 2007 “Best of” re-release. An abbreviated version of the tune, which is a few seconds shy of eight minutes long, charted within the top 50 around the globe.

L.A. Woman was the Doors’ final album and in many ways was considered Jim Morrison’s farewell, as he left to become a Parisian playwright after recording in January 1971. Morrison was found dead in his bathtub in Paris on July 3, just three months following the release of the record and coincidentally on Saturday of Independence Day weekend. 

The album is a perfect portrait of 1970s America, especially from the perspective of a vagabond poet in the Southwest. In addition to “L.A. Woman,” solid examples include “Riders on the Storm,” “L’America” and “WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat).” However, every tune on the album makes up another paint on the palette, including John Lee Hooker tribute “Crawling King Snake.”

Independence Day

Party Playlist

Here is a diversified list of tunes to celebrate Fourth of July for anyone who, since Memorial Day, is already burned out on Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” and Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried.” There are tons of other classics that fit the bill just fine, or work as perfect complements around such staples as Tom Petty’s “American Girl” and Johnny Cash’s uber-patriotic “Ragged Old Flag.”

“This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie, exercises every ounce of the First Amendment right. While one stanza paints an expansive picture of America’s vast and vibrant landscapes and symbolic amenities, the next criticizes the borders and boundaries outlining an “Us vs. Them” mentality. In saying “this land was made for you and me,” he makes no literal distinction.

“America” by Simon & Garfunkel grants the listener glimpses into various vignettes of a four-day hitchhiking road trip taken by Paul Simon and his then-girlfriend, Kathy Chitty. The story begins in Saginaw, Mich. and ends on a self survey from the New Jersey Turnpike.

Throughout, Simon illustrates each of the small, simple pleasures they take for a sense of comfort and home, like sweets, rations of cigarettes and a magazine. While gazing at a rising moon, Simon makes the existential realization that he is lost. When he sings, “They’ve all come to look for America,” he’s speaking more about an inward journey home.

“L.A. Woman” by The Doors received an honorable mention previously in this article, but is worth a little effort in unpacking. Morrison details Los Angeles – which takes the metaphorical form of a seductive woman – mostly from the point of view of the freeway. With lyricism reminiscent of beat poetry, Morrison profiles the unraveling human condition in every nook and cranny of the city. What’s more American than weighing human vices against a world of opportunity (“city of lights” versus the “city of night”) from the open road?

“U.S. Blues” by the Grateful Dead takes a critical but lighthearted look at American culture, naming such icons as P.T. Barnum, fictional character Charlie Chan and, most notably, Uncle Sam. The song is upbeat and employs a healthy sense of humor while, on the other hand, challenging overt nationalism and a push to grow the military. The portrait of Uncle Sam “hiding out in a rock ’n’ roll band” seems to invite Americans to take solace in the community of music. 

“American Pie” by Don McLean was a super hit that could never have been topped. In fact, when asked what the song meant, he reportedly quipped, “It means I never have to work again!” Images of “good ol’ boys” in Chevies drinking rye are definite visions into American pastimes like no other. However, most of the symbolism throughout alludes to a musical timeline following a tragedy – “the day the music died” – which ended the era of early rock ’n’ roll and left an indelible mark on pop culture. That tragedy was the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper.

Hometown Hero 

Returns for Spell

Speaking of American girls, much of the Beach Haven community crowded Nardi’s on Saturday evening to welcome home Maggie Sullivan (nee Pietrucha), who was pleased to be reunited with her father and favorite duo partner, Matt Pietrucha. 

Sullivan, who grew up spending her summers in Beach Haven, established herself for the last few summers as an Americana powerhouse, gigging all over Jersey in an acoustic duo with her dad. An old soul with the silvery pipes to match, she conjures up sonic recollections of legends Stevie Nicks and Sheryl Crow. Accompanying each other on guitar and vocal harmonies, she and Matt revive old folk rock classics. 

Last year marked a series of massive transitions for the songstress. She graduated with a music degree and, soon after, was married to her college sweetheart. When her husband enlisted in the U.S. military, she started a new life with him on the other side of the globe, in Hawaii. In fact, her final LBI show was featured in last year’s Independence Day issue.

“It’s a totally different vibe out here. I love it,” said Sullivan, who just finished up her first year as a music teacher for a Hawaiian charter school, teaching kindergarten through eighth-grade students. She also teaches the after-school music program.

The teaching position was not part of her plans, but she is soaking up every ounce of the experience.

“It’s an awesome opportunity,” she said. “A lot of the kids have never had a music class before, so we’re just doing fun stuff – the basics for the young kids. Just playing around, making rhythms and keeping beats.”

Her lessons for the older students are meant to prepare them for high school-level musicianship. “Some kids, I noticed, are definitely more musically inclined and have already picked up the guitar or something,” she said, explaining she leans more into music theory for the more inspired students. “I’m just dipping my toes into teaching, seeing what works and what doesn’t.”

So far, the experience has been a rewarding one.

“I’ve enjoyed watching the kids develop their own musical passions.” For example, she shared, “I’ve had parents come up to me and say, ‘My kid hasn’t touched his drums in forever!’

In her down time, Sullivan has been slowly breaking into the tight-knit music scene in Hawaii. “We’re in Scofield Barracks, which is more toward the north shore,” she explained. The music scene is happening down in Honolulu, about a half hour away. Plus, she added, “It’s very competitive.” The gigging musicians, having spent years building out their local reputations, aren’t moving over anytime soon! However, one local legend, Johnny Helm, who has held down the local circuit for nearly half his lifetime as a performer and a popular Honolulu radio broadcaster, has generously shared a bit of his limelight with Sullivan.

“He’s super cool and super supportive,” Sullivan emphasized gratefully. He has given Sullivan some stage time, and when her father visited her from the mainland, he even let them get up during his set to perform as they did back home. Helm even invited Sullivan into his home studio to record Stevie Nicks’ “After the Glitter Fades,” so she has material to promote herself with.

Although she has been far from home, home has not been far from her. In fact, almost every member of her immediate family visited her on a separate occasion, giving her small doses of love throughout her year away.

Sullivan is now on summer vacation from her teaching position. She and her husband are spending his two cherished weeks of leave time visiting their respective families in Jersey and Connecticut.

In addition to making a return to the stage and spending quality time with family, Sullivan intends to get some wings at the Chegg and hit up Bird & Betty’s for dinner and an acoustic show.

“I have a friend who works there (at B&B’s) and she keeps telling me I have to get over there!” They are also hitting up the Dead & Company show up in Boston while in North America. 

It wouldn’t be a proper homecoming without a duo performance with her dad. Saturday night they serenaded the audience with some tried and true favorites from acts including Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Johnny Cash. They even debuted a couple of acoustic covers, like Sullivan’s personal favorite, “Let My Love Open the Door.” Old soul, indeed.

Other crowd pleasers on which Sullivan took lead traversed the decades, beginning with Dolly Parton’s famed “Jolene” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy” and touching into the ’80s and ’90s with Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” and the Cranberries’ “Zombie.” She landed in contemporary Americana with Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You.”

On a solid handful of numbers, including Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” Bare Naked Ladies’ “Brian Wilson,” Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” and Pure Prairie League’s classic “Amie,” Pietrucha took lead while his daughter backed him up on harmony. He’s had to become comfortable as a solo artist and front man again since his daughter moved. 

“Dad’s been doing his own stuff. I think ever since I left he’s been wanting to get back out, and he did. I’m so happy for him,” Sullivan emphasized. 

“Although Maggie is now miles away, our time gigging together the past few years has inspired me to continue playing guitar and singing, so I’ve gone solo,” he said. “Of course, we always try to get together on stage when Maggie and her husband, Patrick, are back home visiting, and it just warms my heart!” Fans can catch Pietrucha at Mud City Crab House on July 24 and again at Northside Bar and Grille on July 29.

Despite having no time to rehearse, the music poured effortlessly from them. “We’re just on the same level when we get up there,” Sullivan said. “Even when we’re winging it, we just know what we’re doing, and it’ll always work out. We just have a good connection.”

The Sullivans are stationed in Hawaii until 2025, so follow @Maggie Sullivan Music on Facebook to stay in the loop with her visits back to North America.

In the meantime, check into The SandPaper’s trusty nightlife schedule for a whole host of happenings going on every night of the week.

monique@thesandpaper.net

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