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The song “Michigan, My Michigan” is often considered the state song of Michigan. In actuality, the state has no single official state song. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources cites two songs, “Michigan, My Michigan” and a long-forgotten song entitled “My Michigan” as having places in the state’s official song history. Most people who live in the area recognize “Michigan, My Michigan” as the state song of Michigan, even though it is not formally so.
“Michigan, My Michigan” was written in 1862 by a Detroit native, at the height of the Civil War. Since its inception, the song has undergone a few rewrites to reflect the current time period and state of affairs in Michigan. The lyrics were first updated in 1886 for the 50-year anniversary of the state’s founding. The most recent rewrite took place in 1902, altering the lyrics to be more peaceful in nature, rather than focusing on the battles of the Civil War. This version is most commonly recognized today as the state song of Michigan and is sung at sporting events and official state proceedings.
The lyrics of “Michigan, My Michigan” focus on the positive attributes of the state. The song pays homage to the area’s shoreline and forests and promises devotion and loyalty to the state. It is sung to the tune of “O Tannenbaum,” also known as “O Christmas Tree.” The original 1862 lyrics were much more focused on the Civil War. They speak of the state sending “thy bravest forth to die” and cite some major battles of the war, including the battles at Yorktown and Richmond.
The forgotten “My Michigan” song is listed in historical records as one official state song of Michigan, despite rarely being acknowledged as such by the public. It was written in 1933 and made an official state song of Michigan in 1937. It is never used during official Michigan state proceedings, possibly due to concerns over royalties and copyrights. “Michigan, My Michigan” is always played during such events.
The state song of Michigan, whichever song one chooses to recognize as such, is one of many Michigan state symbols. The state bird is the robin and the state animal is the wolverine, which also serves as the mascot for the University of Michigan. Michigan’s official state motto is in Latin but translates as “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you,” owing to the state’s many shorelines on the Great Lakes. The United States quarter honoring Michigan shows Michigan's nickname as "The Great Lakes State."
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