“Maryland, My Maryland” isn’t exactly the proudest state tradition. The song—derived from an 1861 poem by James Ryder Randall and set to the tune of “O Tannenbaum”—has been Maryland’s official state anthem for more than 75 years and is regularly belted out at events like the Preakness Stakes despite its pro-Confederacy lyrics, which refer to Abraham Lincoln as a “despot” and Union soldiers as “scum.”
Recently, though, some members of the Maryland General Assembly have rumbled about changing things up and adopting a less divisive song. One suggestion is to keep the melody and overall theme of the lyrics but edit out the pro-Confederate lines. Others have recommended that the state scrap “Maryland, My Maryland” entirely and hold a contest to find a new song.
Here’s a better idea: Maryland has produced plenty of great musicians over the years, so just adopt one of their songs as the new state anthem. Here are six possibilities to get started.
Frank Zappa: “What’s New In Baltimore?”
This jammy cut from Charm City’s zaniest rockstar is full of weird time signature changes and spoken word passages, but it’s lyrics read like an advertisement for visiting Baltimore. “Hey, what’s new in Baltimore/ Better go back and find out,” he sings. The billboard basically writes itself.
Ralph Davis: “Maryland Fight Song”
The song’s brevity (it’s just under one minute long) is a drawback, but because it’s written by a University of Maryland alumnus and regularly performed at Terrapins games, it’s an obvious candidate. More importantly, the “Maryland Fight Song” is flanked by unoffensive, positive lyrics that most state residents probably are familiar with already, even if they didn’t matriculate in College Park. All you’d need to do is loop the melody twice and you’ve got a full-length anthem.
Panda Bear: “The Preakness”
Noah Lennox—a founding member of Baltimore experimental pop band Animal Collective—usually writes vague, nonsensical words to pair with his psychedelic tracks. But “The Preakness,” from his 2011 album Tomboy, could be a worthy nominee thanks to its Maryland-centric title and its uplifting, uniting lyrical platitudes: “Keep it up until the day you’ve got what you want/ I see that we are reared in a similar way/ Try to figure it out/ See your hopes become my hopes.”
All Time Low: “Six Feet Under The Stars”
This song from Towson pop-punk band All Time Low is more about the city of Baltimore than the state on the whole, however its ultra specific references to locations like South Broadway and Thames Street (“Thames Street/ I’ll take you out though I’m hardly worth your time,” singer Alex Gaskarth croons) would probably tickle people with Charm City pride.
Bikini Kill: “Rebel Girl”
Okay, this would probably never fly considering the song’s profanity and the fact that Bikini Kill formed in Olympia, Washington. But Kathleen Hanna did spend part of her childhood in Calverton, and there’s something oddly inspiring about the thought of thousands of Marylanders chanting “Rebel girl/ You are the queen of my world” in unison.
David DeBoy: “Crabs For Christmas”
No list could be complete without David DeBoy’s heinously brilliant “Crabs For Christmas,” which is probably more ubiquitous among locals than “Maryland, My Maryland” anyway. Also, potshots directed at New England’s holiday traditions (“No not scrod!”) are infinitely more tasteful than those attacking Abraham Lincoln.
Sisqo: “Thong Song” (Honorable Mention)
Can you name a more bonafide banger by a Maryland artist? No, you cannot.