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Song spotlight: Home on the Range

Today is the 150th anniversary of the founding of the state of Kansas, and having been born and raised in several towns and cities in this state, I am pretty excited to be celebrating the sesquicentennial! In honor of this momentous occasion, I wanted to spotlight a favorite song of many folks, Kansans and non-Kansans alike: “Home on the Range.”

“Home on the Range” was written by a Kansas homesteader in 1872 and is now the official state song, but after it was written, it quickly spread across the country as cowboys and Western settlers passing through Kansas took the song with them. As is common with folk music, “Home on the Range” went through many changes and modifications to suit the people passing the song along. (In fact, the title line, “home on the range” did not even appear in the original version of the song!) You can see three different versions of the song here. Of course, the most familiar version of the song goes something like this:

Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam

Where the deer and the antelope play

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word

And the skies are not cloudy all day

Home, home on the range

Where the deer and the antelope play

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word

And the skies are not cloudy all day

Beyond these most-familiar verses, though, there are also many other verses from various sources. Here’s another one of my favorites (sung to the same tune – try it!):

The air is so pure, the breezes so light

The zephyrs so balmy at night,

I would not exchange my home here to range

Forever in azure so bright.

All of these verses have the same general idea: painting the perfect picture of home. This, I think, is where this song becomes so interesting to discuss and so useful for music therapy applications. Of course, at a basic level, many people of various age groups, including lots of my older adult clients, can sing this song, and even just the most familiar verse and chorus can spark a variety of discussions – about the idea of home, about the cowboy way of life, or even about western movies. The various published verses may be of special historical interest to some folks.

What is especially cool, though, is that a discussion of how the song was adapted and augmented to fit different people’s lives could lead to writing new verses about our homes now. Depending on the group or individual, the new lyrics can be more literal or more metaphorical, but either way, the new verses are not just another goofy piggyback song but rather are part of a long tradition in folk music of molding the song to fit one’s own situation. This gives the songwriting experiences more dignity and interest for people who might not normally be inclined to participate in this sort of exercise.

Yes, the state song of Kansas is pretty great! Of course, now that I work on both sides of the state line in the Kansas City metro area, I do have some budding affection for the state of Missouri, but just for now, I will simply wish you a happy Kansas Day!

This post is part of an occasional series on special songs to share with your loved ones. For more song spotlights, click here.

5 comments… add one
  • Does that mean the Missouri waltz will make its appearance (if it hasn’t already)? Does Kansas have a waltz?

    • soundscapemusictherapy

      I don’t think Kansas has a waltz,(although you could waltz to “Home on the Range!”) The “Missouri Waltz” is definitely on my list of songs to learn!

  • Sherrye

    I once worked with an older adult who sang, “Where the BEER and CANTALOUPE play” 🙂

    • soundscapemusictherapy

      Haha! That’s great! Did he use those words on purpose or did he learn it that way?

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