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The Origins of "Hail to the Chief"

We’re all familiar with the tune "Hail to the Chief" as the President’s anthem. But what are the origins of the song? We’ll discover the history behind the president’s theme song with Deane Root, professor and curator for the Center for American Music at the University of Pittsburgh.

“It’s said to come from an old Scottish sailing song y a know there’s lots of islands around Scotland and as they would row to one island or another,they’d sing these songs and these tunes became part of the oral tradition. So in 1810 when Sir Walter Scott wrote his poem about one of those old legends, about an Arthurian legend, this song and many others were used in theatre productions.

Root also says that this song was not always used in a patriotic context.

“ It was used by tutors to learn how to play the violin and the fiddle and the flute and all these other instruments in the 19th century. It was sung by usually men in taverns ya know groups of people who just liked the tune and put whatever words they wanted to.”

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