Jo-Ann Boepple: O' Michigan

Published 1:00 pm Thursday, April 29, 2010

boeppleSome times I open a can or worms and don’t even know it! That’s the case with my asking the question, “Does anyone know the words to ‘Michigan, My Michigan?'”

Cathy La Pointe sent me an e-mail and said that she knew the words and even offered if I would call her, to sing it for me over the telephone. She said that she learned the Michigan song in second grade and she sent me the words.

She said it began like this:

“O Michigan, thy glory lies, In meadows fair and starry skies. Thy lakes and streams, thy lofty pines, the wealth and wonder of thy mines.”

That caused me to go on the Internet to search for references to the song.  And that’s when the worms popped out of the can.

It seems that the House of Representatives and Senate passed a concurrent Resolution No. 17 in 1937 that stated that “My Michigan is an official song of the State of Michigan.”

Giles Kavanagh wrote the words and H. O’Reilly Clint wrote the music and it was copyrighted in 1933. Since it is copyrighted, I believe permission is necessary to reprint the words, because I am not able to find the words in print anywhere. There is a copy of the song in the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan and another copy in the Rare Book Room of the Library of Michigan. But there seems to be no words in print.
But here is the catch. A more popular song called “Michigan, My Michigan” is considered by many to be Michigan’s unofficial state song.  Winifred Lee Brent Lyster of Detroit wrote the lyrics for the first version of “Michigan, My Michigan” in 1862 to the tune of “O Tannenbaum.” Her husband was a surgeon during the Civil War.

That song begins with:

“Home of my hearts, I sing of thee! Michigan, My Michigan

Thy lake-bound shores I long to see, Michigan My Michigan.”

Then in 1886, Major James W. Long of Grand Rapids wrote new lyrics for Michigan’s semi-centennial celebration. While his words hail Michigan’s attributes, they do not forget the Civil War veterans.

“Land of my love, I sing of thee, Michigan, My Michigan

With lake-bound shore, I’m proud of thee, Michigan, My Michigan.”

When the Michigan State Federation of Woman’s Clubs met in Muskegon in 1902 they wanted a Michigan song that did not include the gory mentions of the war, so Douglas Malloch wrote new lyrics more suitable for a peacetime convention of women.

“A song to thee, fair State of mine, Michigan, My Michigan.

But greater song than this is thine, Michigan, My Michigan.”

Now you may wonder why I only included the first lines of the songs. The first song written in 1862 had 10 verses, the 1886 version had six and the last one written in 1902 had four. The song that Cathy LaPointe remembers had only two verses.   If you would really like to know all of the verses of these songs, give me a call and I will attempt to sing them all for you or maybe I’ll just record them all on my answering machine, if I can get Cathy to join me and the machine doesn’t stop before we get through all 22 verses.

But where o where is “O Michigan” and “My Michigan”?